The Hot Springs racetrack announces $100-million expansion shortly after Arkansas voters approved casino gaming in the state
Thoroughbred racetrack Oaklawn Racing & Gaming in Hot Springs, Arkansas announced on Monday a $100-million expansion that will include the addition of a high-rise hotel, an event center, and gaming space, among other things.
The announcement arrived two weeks after Arkansas voters approved Issue 4, a constitutional amendment that authorized the addition of full-scale casinos at Oaklawn and Southland Racing and Gaming in West Memphis as well as the construction of two new casinos in Pope and Jefferson Counties.
The expansion project will include a seven-story hotel with 200 rooms, including two presidential suites, a 14,000-square-foot event center, and 28,000 square feet of additional gaming space. Amenities at the hotel tower will include a restaurant, fitness and spa, and an outdoor swimming pool, among other things. Oaklawn owners said that half of the hotel rooms will offer unique views of the racetrack, while the other half will offer mountain and lake views.
Oaklawn expects to break ground on the expansion after the end of the racing season in May 2019. Owners hope that the planned gaming expansion will be completed by January 2020, while the hotel and event center is expected to be finished late in 2020. According to initial estimates, the project will create 2,300 construction and 400 permanent jobs.
Expansion Plan Since 2014
Louis Cella, President of Oaklawn Jockey Club, said on Monday that the expansion project represents a new chapter in the rich 114-year history of the racetrack. The official further noted that while many would think the announcement came in response to the passage of Issue 4, plans for the expansion originally emerged in 2014, right after a previous expansion project had been completed.
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Mr. Cella said on Monday that with the new plan, they aim to enhance the entertainment experience for customers, elevate thoroughbred racing, and make Hot Springs, and Arkansas as a whole “even stronger regional tourism destinations.”
Oaklawn did not take a side during debates over the proposed casino expansion in Arkansas. Southland, on the other hand, voiced its support for the ballot measure ahead of the November 6 vote and pointed out that if Issue 4 succeeded, it would expand its operation significantly.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson attended Oaklawn’s Monday event, saying that racetrack officials informed him about their expansion plans in October and that the passage of the casino ballot measure was not relevant to those plans.
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The state’s top official touted the project and said that his office values the commitment to Hot Springs that Oakland has shown. Gov. Hutchinson further noted that tourism is the state’s “second-leading industry” and any investment in that industry is welcome.
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