Joseph T. Byrd, Chairman, Quapaw Nation

Joseph T. Byrd, Chairman
Quapaw Nation
Downstream Casino Resort in Quapaw, OK; Quapaw Casino in Miami, OK; and commercially operated Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff, AR

NAVIGATING 2021: The Quapaw Nation, much like the rest of Indian Country, was devastated by the pandemic last year. This year we were able to formulate a strategic plan to administer vaccinations to all of our tribal members through our Indian Health Service facilities. Our distribution plan prioritized tribal elders, culture keepers, and healthcare personnel, followed by at-risk members of specific age ranges. Eventually, we were able to administer vaccines to all of our employees, including non-tribal members. Quapaw contributed to the overall distribution rate of Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, resulting from our uniquely situated reservation in the northeast corner of the state. In fact, many tribes in Oklahoma successfully contributed to the distribution rate throughout the state because of their ability to efficiently administer vaccinations. As positive test cases and mortality rates sharply decline, there is a better sense of public health and safety from our tribal members. Our government offices have shifted back to being fully opened to the public and our business entities have relaxed pandemic protocols that were put in place over a year ago.        

CHALLENGES/OPPORTUNITIES: In the midst of the pandemic, our tribal members voted to unseat the previous twenty-year tribal administration. The new administration was tasked with completing a $285 million-dollar casino construction project, which we accomplished through strong teamwork. Quapaw joined a short list of tribes throughout Indian Country that own and operate a commercially licensed casino. Although we faced many challenges at inception, Saracen Casino Resort has positioned itself as the top-performing casino in the State of Arkansas, and our tribe has begun to reap some rewards.

We have implemented new policies that tightened controls and strengthened all operations. With these changes, our flagship property, Downstream Casino Resort, has experienced the highest performing month, New Year’s Eve, and first quarter in the thirteen-year history of the property. This financial performance has stimulated our position in the bond market, which we utilized to finance our casino projects, and in turn, has signaled our ability to service debt more efficiently and responsibly. Now, we have investment banks reaching out to us with stronger appetites for re-financing debt or issuing term-loans at more favorable interest rates, with less restrictions on how our gaming revenues are distributed back to the tribe. Quapaw is in a more secure position financially, and better equipped with a strategic plan. With the assistance of the American Recovery Plan, Quapaw has the opportunity to better invest in tribal infrastructure, education, and healthcare for our people. 

KEY TO SUCCESS: The dedication and perseverance of our employees was and is the key to our success. We also eliminated unnecessary expenses such as executive payroll and compensation, third-party professional and legal fees, and other arrangements that resulted in little to no benefit to our tribe or our members.

FUTURE DEVELOPMENT: We have a hotel tower to raise at Saracen Casino Resort in Arkansas. We are also renovating our cultural grounds in anticipation of the 150th annual Quapaw Powwow and everyone is certainly invited to come celebrate with us.