Arkansas Casinos See Winnings Fall During Severe Weather Month

Posted on: March 23, 2021, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: March 23, 2021, 04:17h.

Confronting harsh winter weather in February, all three Arkansas casinos had a sharp falloff  in win totals.

Southland dog track
A handler walks a dog to the track at Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis, Ark. Southland and the other two Arkansas casinos took in less profit in February than the previous month. (Image: The Commercial Appeal)

Overall in February, the three casinos combined won money. But they won about $13 million less in February than the previous month, according to figures released Tuesday by the Arkansas Racing Commission. This includes bets placed in sportsbooks, on “terminals,” such as slot machines, and on table games.

During deadly winter weather that gripped the nation in February, temperatures in Arkansas plunged well below zero in some areas. Throughout the region, including Oklahoma and Texas, ice and snow made traveling treacherous, and water and power outages thrust millions into difficult living conditions.

The largest drop in Arkansas casino earnings in February occurred at Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis. The casino and dog track had a net win of more than $15.69 million in February. However, this figure is more than $6.53 million below January’s win.  

At Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs, the $7.64 million win total in February was down by $2.46 million from January’s win. 

The net win total at Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff dropped from $10.38 million in January to $6.34 million in February. Saracen was forced to close temporarily during the month because of water pressure issues in the city.

Decline in Sports Betting

The sportsbooks at the three casinos had been on a roll before February, with each taking in more than $1 million in bets for two straight months.

In February, the handle at each casino declined from the January totals. The “handle” is the amount wagered on a sporting event.

Severe weather is seen a factor in driving down the month-long sports betting totals.  In Arkansas, bettors are required to wager in-person at the sportsbook or betting kiosk inside the casino. Mobile sports betting is not permitted in Arkansas.

The sports-betting handle at Southland fell from $3.7 million in January to about $2.3 million in February. The win total was down by $364,102 from January to February.

At Oaklawn, the handle dropped from $2.1 million during the first month of the year to $1.2 million in February. The casino won money on sports betting, but the net win in February was $221,606 lower than January’s total. 

Saracen’s handle dipped below $1 million February, with $898,125 in bets placed. One month earlier, bettors wagered more than $1.3 million on sporting events. The casino made money on sports wagering in February, but $147,195 less than in January.

All three casinos made less on table games in February compared to the previous month.

Mobile Sports Betting Sought

In February, a Little Rock lobbying firm, Capitol Advisors Group, sought a state rule change to allow mobile sports betting in the state. The firm represents FanDuel, DraftKings, and MGM Resorts.

Racing Commission Director John C. “Smokey” Campbell replied to Capitol that licensed casinos are the only entities allowed to offer sports wagering in Arkansas. 

Current rules would allow Arkansas casinos to develop their own mobile sports betting apps. Bettors would have to be on casino property to place a bet, even on an app.

Mobile sports betting off of a casino property would require a rule change. A rule change would allow a casino to partner with mobile sports betting companies, state officials said. The casinos have not sought this change.