Quapaw Nation and Downstream Development Authority Chairman John L. Berrey spoke with Pine Bluff residents Tuesday evening to provide an overview of the Saracen Casino Resort development and to show the latest architectural renderings and other details, including the property’s logo, describing what it means and how it came about.
A news release described the following regarding the casino and the logo selected for it.
“The casino resort is named after the beloved Quapaw Chief Saracen who died in 1832 and was buried, at his request, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, part of the Quapaw’s original homeland for hundreds of years prior to relocation to northeast Oklahoma,” the news release said.
The logo’s design, created by Chairman and graphic artist Barry Linduff, pays homage to the two primary historical cultures of the south-central Arkansas Delta around Pine Bluff: 1) That of the Native-Americans, as seen in the right-side facial profile of a Quapaw man.
The traditional “swirl” patterns that appear on the left and lower areas were commonly used on Quapaw pottery; and, 2) on the left side, the facial profile of an African-American woman, to honor the history and heritage of the region’s enduring African-American influence.
Berrey said that Tuesday’s meeting was just another step toward obtaining the gaming license required for operation and hiring local contractors to complete construction of the casino. The property will be located at the corner of the Martha Mitchell Expressway and US 63/79 near the Pines Mall.
“This meeting … will hopefully help uplift the community and the economy,” Berrey said.
“We are still continuing our conversation with contractors, and want to focus on hiring local. We are starting now with having conversations with people who will work inside of our facility. We have the Arkansas Workforce Development here, and they are helping us with getting people’s names, and they will help us with different groups so we can interview them.”
Berrey said that once a gaming license is obtained, the Downstream Development Authority will open an annex at the Southern Edge Truck Stop, which they purchased earlier this year, for gaming. The truck stop sits just a few hundred yards away from the resort site.
The Arkansas State Racing Commission could grant Saracen Casino Resort their license as soon as mid-June, Berrey said.
“Part of our whole footprint includes the truck stop. We are going to do some remodeling on it,” Berrey said. “We are going to put an annex there that will include some gaming inside of that annex. It will help get the tax base going, help us train people, and help get our systems up and running. It will take us a good six months to do that, but we are geared up, excited, and are looking forward to it.”
Construction of the annex will begin at the same time as the construction of the casino.
“It is all going to build at the same time as the casino. I don’t really want to focus on just the annex because the annex is just a small portion of what we are doing,” Berrey said. “[The time frame] will be up to the racing commission. We have filed for our license. They asked us some questions, and we have responded to those questions. Since we are the only applicant I think they have something to focus on, so we are looking forward to integrating with them.”
Berrey said that they are hoping to have their license within the next month or two.
“The end of the period is at the end of the month, so hopefully soon thereafter we will hear from them,” Berrey said. “Once we get the license we will really get going and start going.”
He said that Downstream Development will hire more than one thousand workers for the construction phase, as well as full-time workers to help operate the casino and resort.
“We estimate somewhere similar to what we will have full-time employed,” Berrey said.
“1,100 is the number have based on what we currently operate with at Downstream Casino. We think there will be about 1,000 to 1,200 construction workers – everything from construction to laborers, concrete, electricians, bricklayers – just every kind of facet for construction. In the casino, we will have the gaming jobs, but we will have every kind of operation you can think of to run a resort. We will have hotel operations, people who clean the rooms, and guest services.
“We will have a spa with spa operations. We will have facilities operations with employees to make sure everything stays functional and is working well. We will have a human resources department and a very large finance department. We have had conversations with (the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) to get them to help us groom young people into accounting. There are a lot of professional positions in a highly regulated workplace like we have, so it is a lot of people. Food and beverage, servers, dealers, management. It is just about anything you can think of with a resort that has gaming.”
Saracen Casino Resort will also host concerts and other live entertainment.
“We will have an indoor concert facility and an outdoor concert facility,” Berrey said.
“We will also have live bands Thursday through Sunday playing inside on the floor of our bars. There will be a lot of entertainment all of the time there. There will also be a lot of convention space. We don’t want to compete against the Convention Center here, but we do want to attract everything from conferences, trade shows, safety meetings, and Christmas parties. That is what we do now at Downstream Casino, and it is what we want to do here.”