December: Arkansas Casinos All Top $1M in Sports Bets
By Larry Henry
The sportsbooks in Arkansas’ three casinos each brought in more than $1 million in December. This is the first time all three topped the million dollar mark in the same month.
With a sports betting guide and $5 on the counter, an employee hands over a betting slip at Southland Casino in West Memphis, Arkansas. The sportsbook took in nearly $3.4 million in December. (Image: KARK-TV)
Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis had the largest sports wagering handle of the three in December, according to the Arkansas Racing Commission. The “handle” refers to the amount of money wagered. Southland collected nearly $3.4 million in sports bets during the last month of 2020. This figure is down more than $156,000 from November. The November total was down from October’s $4.1 million handle.
Southland is a casino and greyhound track across the Mississippi River from the larger Memphis, Tennessee, metropolitan area.
In November, sports wagering became legal on mobile devices in Tennessee for people betting within the state’s borders. This is seen as potentially contributing to the monthly decline in sports wagering at the West Memphis casino.
In Arkansas, bets on sporting events only are allowed in-person at sportsbooks or kiosks inside casinos. Even with a lower handle, Southland won about $30,000 more in December than in November once the winning bets were paid off.
Meanwhile, Southland is preparing to end dog racing permanently at the property next year. The number of greyhound races at the track is dropping from 6,656 in 2019 to 2,662 in 2022. The track closure at Southland will leave only two states with dog tracks. These are Iowa and West Virginia.
Horse Racing Season Begins
At Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, the amount bet at the sportsbook in December topped $2 million. This exceeded November’s handle by about $200,000. However, once the winning bettors were paid, the sportsbook made less money in December than in November. The sportsbook netted $239,033 in December, about $76,500 less than in the previous month.
Oaklawn is in Hot Springs, about an hour southwest of Little Rock, the state capital.
In addition to a full casino, Oaklawn is home to a longtime horse track with a prominent history in racing circles. The annual Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn is viewed as an important prelude to the Triple Crown races.
This year’s 57-day racing season at Oaklawn starts on Jan. 22 and ends May 1. Oaklawn has announced it will allow a limited number of fans to attend live races at the track.
Pine Bluff Casino Hits High Marks
In Pine Bluff, Saracen Casino Resort took in nearly $1.03 million in sports bets in December, its first $1 million handle. This is about $84,000 more than gamblers wagered on sporting events in November. Once winners were paid, the sportsbook netted $224,559 in December, or about $25,000 more than the previous month’s net win.
Until November, Saracen operated in an annex while the full casino was under construction. November was its first month of operation in a built-out casino.
Pine Bluff is about 45 minutes south of Little Rock.
Also in December, Saracen’s net win from “terminal” devices, such as slot machines, was nearly $1.3 million higher than in November. Southland had an increase during the same period of more than $1 million. Oaklawn showed a net win increase on terminal devices of about $7,000 from November to December.
In Arkansas, casinos pay 13 percent tax on gaming revenue under $150,000. Above that, the tax is 20 percent. Following a COVID-19 shutdown in March, Arkansas casinos have been operating since May 18 with capacity restrictions and health measures in place.