n a tribal vote which took place Saturday in Oklahoma, John L. Berrey, long-time chairman of the Quapaw Business Committee, which built the Saracen casino in Pine Bluff was defeated by opponent Joseph Byrd.
In a statement, Berrey Congratulated his opponent and said: "He is young, smart, capable, and we are proud to be leaving things for him in a much better way than when we found them."
"I have been honored to serve, and I look forward to a great future for our Quapaw Nation! I love the O-Gah-Pah people, our outgoing Secretary/Treasurer Tamara Reeves, and all the Quapaw Business Committee members I have served with. God bless us all," the statement continued.
Berrey has had a high profile in Arkansas since buying land at the Little Rock Port (part of the Oklahoma-based tribe’s native territory), the Arkansas Times reports. He made enemies in the Little Rock business community, which had other ideas for the port land and who suspected he envisioned a way to build a casino there.
Business opposition led to Quapaw sale of the port property at a hefty profit. The tribe moved on to join hands with others to pass Amendment 100 to the Arkansas Constitution in 2018, which allowed new casinos in Jefferson and Pope counties. The Quapaws moved quickly and with little opposition to nail down the permit in Pine Bluff. They’ve opened a casino annex and are progressing on completion of a full-fledged casino resort hotel.
Berrey was named tribal leader of the year in 2018 by a group of native American financial officers.
He was profiled earlier this year in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette about his leadership of the $350 million Pine Bluff casino development. It noted he’d led the council for 19 years and overseen development of two casinos in Oklahoma. He’s a University of Arkansas graduate.
Members of the committee stand for election every two years. Berrey defeated a challenger, Rob Weaver, in 2018 by a vote of 449-350. A Facebook post indicates Byrd won 544-325 in a campaign in which the challengers criticized Berrey’s leadership.