In November of 2018, Arkansas voters approved a measure that legalized brick-and-mortar casinos in four separate counties. The Southland Park Gaming and Racing, located in West Memphis, was one of the first establishments to begin offering casino games. Yesterday, it was announced that a major Arkansas casino expansion will soon begin inside Southland.
The plan is now set in place, and will likely result in a major increase in both tourism and revenue for the state.
Legal Framework Allowing for Arkansas Casinos
Arkansas has been notoriously strict with its gambling laws over the years. Dog and horse racing has been a fixture here since the early 1900s, yet the state seemed unwilling to permit any form of casino or sports gambling until very recently.
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In 2005, they began allowing certain forms of electric slot machines and video poker. In 2007, Arkansas passed the Charitable Bingo and Raffles Enabling Act. These changes showed they were becoming more lenient when it comes to gambling, yet most forms of traditional gambling were still banned throughout the state.
The passing of Amendment 100 in November of last year was a big step forward. It allows for full-casino operations to take place inside the state’s two racetracks, and in an additional two counties that currently have no legal gambling operations.
Southland Prepares for Major Arkansas Casino Expansion
Southland Park was established as a greyhound track in 1956. Before long, it gained huge popularity with locals and residents of nearby states like Tennessee. In 2011, Southland began an $11 million expansion, and in 2014, followed up with a further $37.4 expansion.
The announcement yesterday points to the largest-ever investment towards a gambling establishment in the state. Reports indicate that the expansion will be privately funded by Southland owners, Delaware North.
The co-chief executive officer of Delaware North, Lou Jacobs, told media that the project “represents the largest ever investment in a casino in Arkansas and one of the largest for a hospitality project.” It’s an exciting moment for casino-goers around the Arkansas area. So what exactly will this expansion include?
Southland Casino Expansion Plans in Detail
The $250 million investment includes some major changes and additions to Southland Park. First, it will expand the casino floor to 2,400 gaming machines including slots and video poker. It will also add up to 60 live table games.
The entire casino will now measure over 113,000 square feet.
Southland Park will be adding a 20-story hotel with 216 standard rooms, 72 corner suites, and 12 penthouse suites. Plans for a parking garage offering 1,250 spaces were also unveiled.
The project will help to provide a huge number of jobs for Arkansas residents. According to Delaware North, more than 400 new jobs will become available, bringing the park’s total employment to 1,200. Lastly, the expansion plans to include a number of sports betting areas.
If all goes according to plan, the new casino construction will begin this summer and is expected to take 12 months to complete. The hotel construction will begin six months after that.
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Does This Mean Anything for Online Gambling in Arkansas?
At least for now, no. Arkansas has not yet introduced legislation to legalize online gambling in the state. With the DOJ recently changing their stance on the Wire Act, that may not take place for some time.
There are still a large number of US online sportsbooks based overseas available in Arkansas. Bovada Sportsbook has grown extremely popular over the past decade here, offering a wide range of different sports, casino, and poker gaming options.