Sports betting is on the upswing at Oaklawn Resort in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where the casino at the historic horse track is gaining its stride after a COVID-19 lockdown.
The Oaklawn horse track, in operation since the early 1900s, has a long and storied history. In the horse racing world, its annual Arkansas Derby is considered as an important prelude to the Triple Crown races. The casino is located at the track in an adjoining building.
Patrons at Oaklawn’s sportsbook bet $829,673 more in August than the previous month, according to the latest figures from the Arkansas Racing Commission.
The amount bet at Oaklawn on athletic events in August totaled more than $1 million, coinciding with the revival of major sports nationwide during the summer.
Oaklawn’s sports-betting operation, which includes a ticket counter and standalone betting kiosks on the gaming floor, paid out $939,367 in August. It won $69,625 during the month.
A month earlier, patrons at Oaklawn bet $179,315. The casino had a losing July, paying out $19,633 more than it took in from gamblers placing bets.
Athletic Events Return
Sports betting at other gambling sites nationally, including Colorado, also soared in the late summer.
This follows a halt to athletic competition at all levels in March because of an increase in coronavirus infection rates. However, the major sports leagues — basketball, baseball, and ice hockey — resumed play in mid-summer.
In late August, a limited number of college football games took place, giving those who bet on sports even more options. The National Football League, whose games are the most widely bet regular-season sporting events in the country, began its season in September.
As major college football leagues, such as the Southeastern Conference, also ramp up in September, sports betting is expected to maintain its higher levels. This could be especially true at sportsbooks in the Natural State. That’s where the University of Arkansas Razorbacks compete in the challenging SEC West against such powerhouse teams as the University of Alabama Crimson Tide and the defending national champion Louisiana State University Tigers.
Arkansas Casinos Reopen
In November 2018, Arkansas voters approved casino gambling in four cities.
Two locations, a greyhound track at West Memphis and the horse track at Hot Springs, already offered “electronic games of skill.” The 2018 public vote allowed these tracks to open fully licensed casinos.
A casino approved for Pine Bluff is operating in an annex with 300 video machines, while construction continues on the casino. The casino is expected to open Oct. 15.
The fourth casino is in Russellville. It has been licensed, but is not open pending a potential legal challenge to the license.
After ordering the casinos closed in March, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) allowed them to reopen in May. According to state health policy, they are operating at 66 percent capacity.
The sportsbooks at the other Arkansas casinos reopened this month, according to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.