- Legal States
Mike Johnson October 18, 2020 4 min read
Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff Opens, Driving Economy
The Saracen Casino Resort has arrived in a private opening on Thursday with Pine Bluff and Arkansas state officials invited. The official opening to the general public will take place on Tuesday, October 20.
Saracen Casino Resort Has a Behind-Closed-Doors Inauguration
The Saracen Casino Resort is now open for business. Touted as an opportunity to boost Pine Bluff economically and improve the overall quality of life of the city and state, the casino property, in development since 2019, finally opened doors on Thursday this week. The preliminary opening had a few select parties and individuals invited, but the general public will be able to set foot on the Saracen property on Tuesday, October 20.
County Judge Gerald Robinson, one of the proponents of the project, has expressed his confidence that Pine Bluff will experience an economic upsurge in the coming months and years. Judge Robinson attended the Thursday opening and enjoyed a game of craps as he commented for KATV, a local media outlet.
He was excited about the good that has stemmed out of the Saracen Casino Resort, arguing that the revenue already collected has enabled the county to push ahead with a new health department, new veteran service building and a new coroner’s office, all thanks to the casino.
Voters Boost the Economy
All of this is possible with the help of Arkansas’ voters who have voted in an amendment distributing 8% of the gaming revenue to Jefferson County and another 19.5% to the City of Pine Bluff. Commenting on the recent opening, Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington had this to add:
“I think this money is going to help us give those increases to our first responders that we’ve been looking to for so many years so we can have that level of retention that we need.”
Thanks to the casino, the tax base for the city will go up and infrastructure will improve significantly, Washington added. The mayor was cautiously optimistic, arguing that Pine Bluff has so far failed to attract much in the way of industry but that the Saracen Casino Resort was an opportunity to change that.
The fresh opening comes at a time when the Pope County casino project continues to be a contentious issue.
Improving the Quality of Life in Pine Bluff
Introducing a casino will also affect the community positively, the mayor believes, arguing that more jobs would lead to fewer crimes in the community. Washington cited data pulled from other cities and states, although she did not specify which.
Mayor Washington simply explained that there was a tangible jump in the available jobs once a casino opens its door and before that, during construction. Commenting on the timing of the project, Governor Asa Hutchinson argued that going to a casino amid the pandemic certainly invites risks.
However, Gov. Hutchinson said that the department of health has come up with guidelines for operation ensuring maximum safety for patrons and staff. “We are reducing the risk,” the governor said, “but obviously you are a vulnerable age group you need to think carefully about it.”
The casino property comes with a number of dedicated games, a total of 2,300 in fact. There are seven restaurants in the resort and the state is getting a fair bit out of it as well. Based on the constitutional amendment, 13% on the first $150 million of the net gaming revenue will go to the beneficiaries under the current tax law.
An estimated 20% of gaming revenue above $150 million will also be paid in tax. Of this amount, 55% goes to the state’s general fund and 17.5% will be allocated to the Racing Commission which will contribute to horse and greyhound racing purses.
As mentioned previously, 8% will go to Jefferson County and another 19.5% will go to the City of Pine Bluff. Arkansas has had multiple casino projects over the last years that required voters’ involvement.