Quapaw Nation officially broke ground on the Saracen Casino Resort Monday morning in Pine Bluff. The project is the Quapaw Nation’s first development in Arkansas and is expected to create 1,100 jobs. It’s located at the corner of US 79/63 on Market Street.

The resort’s gaming floor will include more than 2,000 slot machines and 50 table games. More than a casino, the resort will boast a 300-room luxury hotel with restaurants and lounges, a spa, conference center, and museum and cultural center.

The casino is scheduled for a June 2020 opening, with the hotel and entertainment venue opening in December 2020.

This first phase of construction will include the Saracen Casino Annex, which is set to open in October. The annex will offer visitors access to 300 slot machines and will be located next to the newly-renovated Q-Store just east of the casino site. The store was formerly known as the Southern Edge truck stop.

Quapaw Nation Chairman John L. Berrey was joined by Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington and Jefferson County Judge Gerald Robinson for a groundbreaking celebration on Monday. Other special guests included Arkansas Lt. Governor Tim Griffin, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, members of the state Legislature and the Arkansas Racing Commission.

“Downstream Development Authority of the Quapaw Nation is honored to have been selected to bring this outstanding facility to the area. Today marks the beginning of the Quapaw Nation’s return to Pine Bluff, and we are excited to be a key part of the continuing revitalization of the city,” Berrey said.

Alex Lieblong, chairman of the Arkansas Racing Commission, was on hand in support of the Saracen Casino Resort.

“A partnership with the Quapaw Nation is showing itself to be a great choice for Jefferson County,” Lieblong said. “The Racing Commission has worked to ensure the will of the people was respected in a timely manner. We were impressed with the professional manner in which the Quapaw handled the process. It was evident that Chairman Berrey and the Quapaw Nation had a good ground game here and earned the support of the community. I look forward to working with the Quapaw in the years ahead.”

Griffin said: “I am excited about the jobs and development Chairman Berrey and his team are bringing to not only Jefferson County, but our state. This is one of the largest economic development projects in Arkansas history. I will remain focused on making sure they’re successful in bringing a new era of economic revitalization to Southeast Arkansas.”

Rutledge said that “the path for revitalization in Pine Bluff is clear. With the Quapaw Nation planting roots in Pine Bluff, this new endeavor with good-paying jobs will bolster economic development and breathe new life into Pine Bluff and southeast Arkansas.”

Pine Bluff Alderman Win Trafford said he believes the casino resort will give Pine Bluff a much-needed boost.

“This is a huge day. This was a dream long ago that was fought hard for by the Quapaw Nation and a lot of people,” Trafford said. “This is a very special day for Pine Bluff. It is a transformation day. I grew up here in a wonderful town that never had anything that was truly sustainable here. I believe that what we are experiencing right now is the big shot in the arm that we needed to have something exceptionable and for Pine Bluff to be something it has never been.”

Trafford said that the casino resort will be about more than just gambling.

“It is going to be great and wonderful, and I look forward to everything that is going to happen the day the casino is finished,” Trafford said. “Folks are going to come in here and enjoy themselves. It isn’t just about gambling. It is about eating and entertainment, it is about conventions, and just having a great time. I am super excited and pumped for it.”

Berrey noted that Quapaw Nation is excited to officially begin on construction of the casino.

“For us, it is super exciting,” Berrey said. “This is really the beginning of some really great things. I think this community is wonderful. We love the people of Pine Bluff, and they have really made us feel at home here.”

Berrey said that the Quapaw Nation will build new facilities for the Pine Bluff Police Department and Pine Buff Fire and Emergency Services on casino property.

“It will be just right behind the truck stop,” Berrey said. “We are going to build a substation for the Police Department and for fire protection.”

Berrey also spoke about the financial impact for the City of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County due to the operation of Saracen Casino Resort.

“Typically for every dollar spent we will give seven times that to the community,” Berrey said. “Not only will there be jobs at the facility, there will be a lot of needs and services needed from the local community. So, that is a big boost for the area.

Monday also marked the grand opening of the Saracen Q-Store, a 20,000-square foot convenience store and gas station. A soft opening was held over the weekend, and Berrey said the reception was tremendous.

“The Q-Store is going great,” Berrey said. “We have a couple of them back home, and we like that business, and this one has turned out wonderful.”

So far, at least 34 people local to Pine Bluff have already been employed by Saracen Casino Resort.

“As of last Thursday we have already hired 34 people,” Berrey said. “It may be more than that by now. We will hire around 1,100 people at the facility once it is up and running. We think there will be around 1,000 construction jobs. There is going to be a lot of work going on.”

Berrey also provided a breakdown of the costs to construct the casino resort.

“The cost of the casino will be about $250 million,” Berrey said. “There will be another $100 Million in fixtures and equipment. Cash to the keg, it will be about $350 million altogether.”