Arkansas Casinos Bouncing Back But Are Still Feeling Pinch

Arkansas Casinos Bouncing Back But Are Still Feeling Pinch
By Jim Tomlin

Arkansas casino revenue slowly began recovering in May after the state’s three locations reopened late in the month. But the financial numbers are still nowhere near where they were before the coronavirus pandemic struck in March.

Total win for the three Arkansas casinos in May was a bit over $13 million, well off the $44 million recorded in February. Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis led the state’s three facilities in total gaming net win in May with $7,278,775. Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs made $5,014,739 in revenue and Saracen Casino in Pine Bluff took in $921,790.

The casinos in Arkansas reopened on May 18 with new capacity restrictions and safety measures in place in light of COVID-19. Thoroughbred racing also has resumed at Oaklawn Park but without fans.

In March, all commercial casinos in the United States were closed amid coronavirus concerns. Many commercial casinos have been reopening in the past few weeks, as have many of the country’s 500-plus casinos on tribal lands.

Like the casinos in Arkansas, they have been reopening with policies designed to halt the spread of coronavirus — masks, social distancing and frequent cleaning are among the most common new realities at casinos nationwide and the ones in Arkansas are no exception.

Arkansas Casino Reopening Timetable

The three Arkansas casinos started to feel the pinch in March. That was when Gov. Asa Hutchinson ordered them closed on March 17 when it became clear how serious the COVID-19 crisis was. When the casinos reopened, there were long lines of people trying to get in and wager, according to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Southland reported $92.1 million in terminal wagers in May, according to figures contained in an email from the Arkansas Racing Commission. Oaklawn reported $52.667 million and Saracen had $14.555 million.

There is no mobile sports betting in the state, so when the casinos shut down, so did legal sports betting. Neither Southland nor Saracen reported any sportsbook handle for May. Oaklawn reported just $509 in sports betting handle and lost $115. For sports betting, Arkansas had $2.5 million in handle in January and a little more than $4 million in handle for February.

Before the coronavirus crisis struck, Arkansas was pointed in a solid direction for gaming income, albeit in a limited market. In February 2020, the last full month of operation for the three facilities, the Arkansas casinos combined for about $256 million in Terminal Wagers and nearly $44 million in Total Net Win.

A proposal to add another Arkansas casino in Pope County has been hampered by numerous delays and political infighting.



Jim Tomlin has more than 30 years of experience in sports journalism as an editor and writer. He has covered pro and college sports from football, baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, motorsports and more for publications such as the Tampa Bay Times,, and FanRag Sports. He now lends his expertise to, among other duties.

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