The brand new, 100-day-old Saracen Casino Annex in Pine Bluff, welcomed excited guests 4 days before the scheduled opening date across last weekend.
Owned and operated by the Native Indian Quapaw Tribe, the casino had what’s called a “soft” launch on September 28. Visitors were given a small taste of what’s to come when their fully-fledged casino and hotel complex is completed next year.
“This is our surprise for the community,” said Carlton Saffa, spokesman for Saracen Casino Resort, as reported by Arkansas Online. “This is our 100-day casino. We started on it 100 days ago and here we are, open for business.”
At the moment, there is only a 15,000 square-feet gaming floor. But the tiny casino came to life with 300 slot machines and a bar on Friday. Guests were initially asked to experience and preview the establishment by invitation only, however, a last-minute decision was made to give a “sneak peek” to the whole city due to popular demand.
“We had intended for tonight to be a soft opening to folks we traded with, that we’d done business with. But then we decided, you know what, folks are so excited so let’s let them all in.”
The Foundations for Something Much Bigger
As it stands, the casino will be operational from today, but what is there now is part of a much bigger plan that the tribal operators have in the pipeline for venue.
By the end of 2020, customers will be able to enjoy an 80,000 square-foot gaming area with a 300-room hotel adjacent to the property. Most other amenities on the site have already been finished, including a Q Store, bar and parking lot.
According to Saffa, the parking lot was full by the time the 6pm opening came around on Friday. Patrons and gamblers were lined up out the doors waiting to enter and get a glimpse of the inside.
One patron called Edward Fontenette managed to win $800 within an hour of playing a slot machine. “This is a really nice place. It’s not too crowded; it’s really nice,” Mr. Fontenette said.
Career Opportunities and Economic Growth
Saffra also talked about how the Q Store currently employs 236 people, and how another 400 jobs have been created to carry out the construction on the main complex.
“Once we get the footings done and the steel starts coming in, we’ll expand to somewhere around 1,000 construction jobs pretty quickly,” he said. “And once the whole project is completed, we’ll be providing over 1,100 permanent jobs right here in Jefferson County.”
One local resident of Pine Bluff called Vincent Bullard is working at the casino now. He said how he was working a series of dull and routine jobs before he landed his position working in maintenance at the Saracen casino. “We’ve got good benefits on this job. Good benefits, good pay, everything. I’m loving it,” he said.
The Quapaw Nation were given their gaming license and planning permission to start the casino back in June, after the Arkansas Racing Commission and voters approved an amendment to the constitution which would legalize gambling in 4 of the state’s counties.
The tribes currently own the Downstream Casino Resort in Arkansas and 3 other properties in the state. So far, they have injected $240 million into the Pine Bluff casino property. The ribbon cutting ceremony for the venue will take place at 11am today.
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