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On Monday, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort became the first operator in Arkansas to offer sports betting to its customers.
The racino, also home to a thoroughbred racetrack, opened the doors to a new sportsbook, offering bets in the VIP racing area of the casino.
Located in Hot Springs, news of the Oaklawn Casino sportsbook opening makes Arkansas the ninth state in the United States to officially offer sports betting.
General manager of the resort, Wayne Smith, placed the state’s first legal bet with a teller on Monday morning.
Smith bet $5 for the Cowboys to cover the 7.5-point spread to beat the New York Giants on opening day of the NFL season.
The opening of the first sportsbook in Arkansas comes on the heels of voters approving sports wagering at four properties in the state in November.
The final tally for the November vote was 54% in favor of the sports betting measure to 46% against.
Efforts to include mobile and online betting with the July launch failed to pass during the state’s legislative session.
Oaklawn is the first of four locations in the state that will offer sports betting, with the other three in various states of preparation before getting approval from the Racing Commission.
The other casino locations to offer wagering on sporting events include the Southland Gaming and Racing facility in West Memphis and at two other casinos in Pope and Jefferson Counties.
Arkansas will tax revenues from sports betting at a 13% rate for the first $150 million that a casino takes in and then 20% on any revenue beyond that figure.
Oaklawn’s sportsbook is the first step in a $100 million renovation and expansion project at the facility.
Customers heading to Oaklawn will find a sportsbook with three large video boards that can be altered to project any number of games currently going on at that time.
Although the sportsbook will only stay open from 10 am to 10 pm, 24-hour kiosks are available to satisfy any late night bettor.
Smith believes that the July 1st start date is perfect for Oaklawn because they can work out any issues before NFL and NCAA football begin, giving the sportsbook time to “get its feet wet”.
Oaklawn has partnered with sports betting operator SBTech to set the lines for betting, handle compliance with state officials at the Racing Commission and monitor games.
Smith cautions about expecting huge returns in the early months of sports betting in Arkansas but feels that the excitement could lead to “phenomenal” early numbers.
“You’re seeing some good numbers across the country in certain states that have put sports betting out there,” Smith said. “I really can’t tell you what we’re going to see here in Arkansas.”
Without online betting in Arkansas’ initial offering, Oaklawn can expect middling revenue in the early months, although football’s arrival should give the sportsbook a shot in the arm.
With their $100 million expansion and the addition of sports betting, Oaklawn Casino is poised to become a powerhouse in the Arkansas Gaming industry.
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