Southland Casino Bounces Back, As Bridge to West Memphis Reopens

Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis, Arkansas, won more money in August than the previous month. This occurred with the reopening of a major bridge connecting the casino’s home city to the larger Memphis, Tennessee, metropolitan area. 

Interstate 40 bridge
Interstate 40 bridge
Local 24 News anchor Eryn Rogers discusses the reopening of the Interstate 40 bridge connecting Arkansas and Tennessee. The reopening has improved commerce in the area, business leaders say. (Image: Local 24 News)

In August, Southland won more than $21.1 million from gamblers, according to the Arkansas Racing Commission. One month earlier, the casino and dog track won $19.6 million. These totals are compiled using figures from the sportsbook, table games, and “terminal” devices, such as slot machines.

The increase in gaming revenue came as the Interstate 40 bridge connecting Tennessee to Arkansas reopened in early August. It was closed for almost three months for repairs.

The six-lane span over the Mississippi River was closed May 11 when a routine inspection revealed a mechanical fracture in a primary support beam. The closing of the busiest freight-carry bridge in the US had an impact on commerce throughout the area, officials said.

The bridge was reopened on July 31 to eastbound traffic. On Aug. 2, the westbound lanes into West Memphis were reopened.

Since Tennessee does not have casinos, Memphis is an important market for Southland. With the bridge reopened, people coming from Tennessee have had easier access to the casino and dog track across the river.

In August, terminals were the biggest money-making category at Southland. The casino won $19.3 million in August on slot machines, compared to a win total of $17.7 million in July. This higher figure offset less successful results at gaming tables and in the sportsbook. The casino won $108,660 less at gaming tables in August than in July, and $125,539 less in the sportsbook.

Southland’s sportsbook handle in August was $1.3 million, compared to a July handle of $1.08 million. The “handle” is the amount of money bettors wager on live sporting events. The win total is determined after winning bettors are paid. 

The August handle, while higher than July’s, was well-below the $4.09 million handle at Southland in October 2020, one month before mobile sports betting was legalized in Tennessee. Mobile sports wagering, which allows the use of smartphones in placing bets, does not occur legally in Arkansas. 

Oaklawn’s Win Total Declines

Arkansas’ other two commercial casinos won money in August, but not as much as in July.

In Hot Springs, Oaklawn Racing Resort won $10.98 million in August, less than its $13.4 million in July. The casino won less money in all three categories — terminals, table games, and sports betting.

The largest falloff came at terminal devices. In August, Oaklawn won $9.9 million at terminals after recording a July win total of $12.2 million.

The casino and historic horse track in Hot Springs is about an hour southwest of centrally located Little Rock, the capital city.

Sportsbook Handle Higher at Saracen

At Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff, the win total in August was $12.1 million. That number is more than $2 million below the July win total.

The casino won about $2 million less on terminal devices in August than in July, and had a lower win total on table games.

Saracen’s bright spot was in the sportsbook. The handle went from $557,773 in July to $580,104 in August. After winning bettors were paid, the sportsbook earned $118,929 in August, compared to $91,761 in July

Pine Bluff is about 45 minutes south of Little Rock.

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