Study: Oaklawn, Southland Racetracks' Impact on Arkansas Economy Near $900 Million

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Jun. 2, 2014 12:00 am  

Adding in the indirect and induced impacts resulted in BaxStarr’s $74.3 million figure.

Expansions and Future

BaxStarr’s study estimated that ongoing, annual impacts should be around $850 million “given relatively consistent construction activity.”

Currently, both venues have major ongoing construction projects.

Oakland is increasing the size of its gambling area by about 50 percent to the tune of $20 million, Jackson said. The project started in summer 2013.

“We can only do it when the horses aren’t here,” he said. “You can’t have jackhammers and horses in the same vicinity. But we got all the infrastructure done last summer and early fall before we had to stop. Right after the Arkansas Derby Day this year, in the middle of April, we jumped back on it.”

The expansion will bring more “player positions,” Oakland’s lingo for spots that can hold electronic games of skill, card games and so forth. The venue currently has about 900 player positions, and when construction wraps up in November, it will have closer to 1,400 or 1,500, Jackson said.

“We’ll also have some other amenities like a sports bar, a high-limits area, a bistro, things of that nature,” he said.

Southland is working on a 4,300-SF, $38 million expansion that will add space for about 500 more electronic games, Keeping said.

“We can potentially go up to around 2,000 games, but we’ll open somewhere about 1,750 to 1,800 games,” he said. “That gives us the ability to grow. We’ve been in a constant growth mode due to the proximity of the mid-South region. We draw heavily out of Jonesboro, northern Mississippi and obviously Tennessee.”

The expansion, he said, will also include a “branded restaurant concept” that Keeping hopes to announce in June.

But one thing that can’t be gleaned from the study is whether the state would benefit from having more venues like Oaklawn and Southland. Jackson said “it’s hard to say,” since the Arkansas Constitution currently bans any further gambling venues from being constructed.

But Keeping said more venues definitely wouldn’t help the state.

“If you follow Tunica, next to us, the Harrah’s Casino is closing, and the Tunica marketplace is shrinking because it used to be a retail destination. As gaming has expanded, it’s become much more local.”

He said that because of Arkansas’ small population and the presence of other gambling venues just across the borders, he felt that the laws “were codified in a right-sized manner given the long-term forecast of what’s happening in the industry nationally. So all this [study] says for a state of 2.5 million people … we’re generating almost a billion dollars of economic impact. If we continue to try and grow and add businesses, to a large extent, you would just take the same-sized pie and divvy it up.”



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