Pine Bluff City Council voted 5-3 against the resolution to request Saracen Casino and Annex to delay resuming casino operations during Monday night's city council meeting.

During Monday night’s Pine Bluff City Council meeting, a resolution requesting the operators of Saracen Casino and Annex to delay resuming casino operations for a 30 day period failed, five to three.
According the resolution, which Alderman Ivan Whitfield sponsored, the resumption of the casino operations would result in an increase in out-of-state area and out-of-state visitors to the casino.
“The bottom line is to protect and promote the public health of our residents. Everybody already knows that our numbers are going up because of testing is more available,” said Whitfield. “To create a hotspot in our community at this time, I just think it’s going to be a terrible day a few weeks from now.”
Alderman Brown asked if the council had the authority.
“We have the authority to ask,” answered Whitfield.
According to Pine Bluff city attorney Althea Scott, the city council could ask but the authority lies with Governor Asa Hutchinson.
Mayor Shirley Washington agreed stating the governor made the decision for all three casinos to open on May 18.
“I don’t care what the governor says,” said Alderman Bruce Locket who said as city officials, they are elected to protect the citizens of Pine Bluff. “”It just don’t make common sense to open up these casinos.”
Hutchinson lifted the restrictions for Arkansas casinos effective Monday, May 18, which Saracen complied and adhered to after approval from the Arkansas Department of Health.
Monday morning John L. Berrey, Chairman of Saracen Development and the Quapaw Nation, released the following statement:
“Last week we provided the state with an extensive operational plan, focusing on guest and team member safety. Today we received notification from the Arkansas Department of Health that our COVID-19 protocols were approved. Our team will closely monitor this phased reopening, and will remain in contact with Secretary Nate Smith and his team for their continued guidance and leadership. We will open Monday, May 18 at 10 am, with reduced capacity, limited hours, masks required, an emphasis on social distancing and a whole host of other new procedures.”
According to Berrey, last week he provided the state with an extensive plan and was confident that they would meet the expectations of state officials and the public.
Patrons who visited the casino Monday afternoon stated safety measures were in order from requiring the use of masks and temperature screenings.
The Saracen Casino Resort COVID-19 Action Plan, obtained by the Pine Bluff Commercial, gives an overview of safety guidelines implemented at their casino for guests, their families and the staff.
That information includes:
• Saracen Casino Annex re-opened to the public Monday, May 18 with reduced operating hours to allow for additional sanitization using medical-grade sanitizers.
• Hours of Operation: Sunday-Thursday, 10 a.m. - midnight; Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 a.m.
• Saracen Casino Annex will be limited to 1/3 building capacity.
• Casino guests will be required to use one entrance and one exit.
• Government Issued Photo ID is required for admission.
• Guests and staff will be subject to a temperature test before entry. Those with temperatures above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit will not be admitted.
• Masks are required for all guests and staff.
• Staff directly interacting with guests will be required to wear gloves.
• Annex will undergo regular enhanced cleaning measures using medical-grade sanitizers, with emphasis on high-touch areas.
• Hand sanitizer is readily available throughout the facility.
• Social distancing measures include:
• Movement and removal of chairs and/ or devices
• Plexiglas® and partition separators at key locations
• Deactivation of devices to avoid overcrowding
• The Saracen Q-Store remains closed until further notice.
Still in development with a projected opening date in late September, early October is the 570,000 sq. ft. casino and 300 room hotel.
The 80,000 sq. foot gaming floor will house 2,000 slot machines and 31 game tables. The casino will also house a conference center, entertainment venue, spa, restaurants and lounges.
Other developments include a safety facility, health clinic, child learning center and daycare.