Quapaw Nation’s Downstream enterprise selected by Pine Bluff, Jefferson County to lead casino efforts

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 746 views 

The investment of millions of dollars to help pass an amendment expanding Arkansas’ casinos may pay off in a bigger way for a Quapaw Nation-based gaming operator.

Local leaders in Jefferson County and Pine Bluff have selected Downstream Development Authority, owner and operator of Downstream Casino Resort, as their casino operator under the guidelines of the newly-passed casino amendment. Downstream is owned by the Quapaw Nation.

Issue 4, now Amendment 100 of the Arkansas Constitution, allows local municipal and county leaders to select who applies for a casino license in their community through a letter of support.

Downstream Development Authority of the Quapaw Tribe contributed $3.65 million to Driving Arkansas Forward, the ballot question committee supporting Issue 4, which passed 54-46% last month.

John Berrey, chairman of Downstream and the Quapaw Nation, announced on Monday (Dec. 3) that Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington and Jefferson County Judge Booker Clemons have provided letters addressed to the Arkansas Racing Commission expressing their support for Downstream as the casino operator in Jefferson County and Pine Bluff. The support letters provide that the leadership’s support is exclusive to Downstream.

Downstream has announced plans for a major casino resort in Pine Bluff if state regulators approve its application.

“It has long been our goal to energize Pine Bluff and Jefferson County through a significant economic investment,” Berrey said. “As the original homeland for the Quapaw Nation, we believe we have an obligation to the region to be good corporate citizens. This casino resort will be a source of pride for the community. It will create hundreds of jobs and generate millions of dollars in taxes that will help improve the city’s and county’s infrastructure and quality of life.”

According to letters from Washington and Clemons, officials with Downstream have held extensive meetings with both leaders and the group demonstrated the “experience, commitment to the community and qualifications” to operate a casino.

“I’ve been impressed by the professionalism and loyalty to our community that I’ve seen from Downstream and the Quapaw Nation,” Washington said. “Through our discussions over the last several months, it’s clear that Downstream wants to be a key partner in the growth and development of our city. I know the residents of Pine Bluff will join me in welcoming this resort, and we encourage the state to move forward quickly with the approval process.”

“The voters of Jefferson County overwhelmingly expressed their support for this amendment,” Clemons said. “They recognize, like I do, that our county will benefit from the positive economic impact Downstream Development Authority will provide to us. Downstream has longstanding ties to the state and to the community, and I am glad to be able to offer my support for its application.”

Downstream operates two casinos, both in Oklahoma. According to Berrey, Pine Bluff’s Saracen Casino Resort could open by late 2019 pending regulatory approval.

Issue 4 was approved by Arkansas voters in November 2018 by a 54-46% margin. It grants casino licenses to Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs and Southland Park in West Memphis. It allows for new licenses in Pope and Jefferson counties.