Oaklawn Opens Gate to Online Gambling

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Jun. 2, 2014 12:00 am  

Oaklawn Park’s betting website might have been slow getting out of the gate, but the track hopes to gain ground on its out-of-state competitors.

In late December, Oaklawn launched OaklawnAnywhere.com, which allows Arkansas residents to place bets on Oaklawn races as well as races at other U.S. and international tracks from their computers, tablets or smartphones. Arkansans can be anywhere in the world when they place their bets.

“We’re very happy with the response over the first five months,” said Bobby Geiger, director of gaming and wagering for the thoroughbred horse racing track at Hot Springs.

For 2014’s 53-day racing season, the website generated $9.1 million in wagers, according to the Arkansas State Racing Commission.

Geiger told Arkansas Business last week that Oaklawn wanted to launch its own betting website about 10 years ago, but the state Legislature denied its request. For the past decade, Oaklawn Park had to sit on the sidelines as Arkansans bet on Oaklawn’s races and other simulcast horse races through national websites.

When Arkansans place their bets with the national websites “the state realizes zero and the horsemen [at Oaklawn] realize zero,” he said.

He estimated that the national websites have grown to generate about $30 million annually from Arkansas horse race bettors.

“This past legislative session, we made the ask once again,” Geiger said. And this time, it was overwhelmingly approved.

The legislation also allows Southland Park greyhound track at West Memphis to offer online betting for greyhound races. But Southland said it’s not planning to join the parade.

“It’s difficult to make a profit” with the online betting, Troy Keeping, regional general manager at Southland, said last week. “The numbers, especially from a greyhound racing standpoint, don’t make sense for us.”

Not everyone is happy that the racetracks were allowed to offer online wagering. The Family Council, a conservative organization headquartered in Little Rock, opposed the legislation.

“The convenience of it being on a smartphone, for people who already have a gambling problem, I believe it does compound that,” said Jerry Cox, president of the Family Council. “It’s just like giving a person with any other addiction an easy way to feed that addiction. It just creates more problems.”



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