On Monday, the Arkansas Racing Commission — led by Alex Lieblong and consisting of six other members — approved The Saracen Casino Resort’s proposal to offer sports betting in Pine Bluff. The commission took only 15 minutes in a meeting to give their approval on the sportsbook.
Once opened, the Saracen Casino Resort will be just Arkansas’ second sportsbook. The Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort was the first.
Saracen Casino Resort Slot Director John Boyce spoke of the event, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette of Little Rock reported.
“It’s an amenity. It’s one more option. In terms of projection, we’ll see,” he said.
Operated by the Quapaw Nation of Oklahoma, which also owns and operates Downstream Casino Resort near the Oklahoma-Missouri state line and the Quapaw Casino in Miami, Oklahoma, the Saracen casino resort broke ground on Aug. 5.
The full casino resort is set to open in Spring 2020. However, those near the casino don’t have to wait to place some bets.
Located in Jefferson County’s Pine Bluff, the Saracen Casino Annex officially opened for business, preceded by a surprise soft opening on Friday.
The 15,000-square-foot annex is part of the Saracen Q-Store, directly across the street from where the main casino and resort will be located. It currently features a full-service bar, 300 slot machines, and the sportsbook is taking bets up to $500.
While the maximum of $500 seems small to many sports bettors, it’s just a sample sportsbook until the full one at the resort opens. The proposal explained the long-term plans for sports betting at the casino resort, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette documented.
“The sample sports book, or ‘limited betting option, will be a sports betting introduction to the local market and provide an introduction for the full-scale sportsbook that will be located at the Saracen Casino Resort.”
International Game Technology is contracted to provide technology for both the annex facility and the new one when it is built. The Saracen deal is IGT's first entry into Arkansas sports betting, according to a company release.
At 15,000 square feet, the annex is just a small taste of what the completed casino will offer.
The $350 million resort project is being built on 570,000 square feet, and 80,000 of those is reserved for the casino. The Saracen Casino will feature over 2,000 slot machines, 50 table games, and a full sportsbook.
Attached to the casino will be a 13-floor, 300-room hotel. The entire project is estimated to be complete by Spring 2020.
Quapaw Nation Chairman John L. Berrey spoke on the casino resort and why the location is special for the tribe, the Pine Bluff Commercial reported.
“Saracen casino will be a lot like Downstream in terms of style, design and luxury, and in what we think it will do for Pine Bluff. But also, building Saracen Casino is a homecoming for the Quapaw people, Berrey said. "That’s where we lived. It is where the great Chief Saracen is buried. So this is very special for us.”
The casino annex and Q-store currently provide jobs for 236 people, and 400 construction positions have been created.
Once the Saracen Casino Resort is completed, they expect to provide 1,100 permanent jobs in Jefferson County.