Inside Gaming: Two Arkansas Casinos Open, Hard Rock Acquiring JACK Cincy
Two Arkansas Racetracks Reopen as "Full-Fledged" Casinos
Last November, Arkansas was among the states voting in favor of gambling expansion. This week saw a result of that positive vote with the opening of two casinos on Monday, the Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis and the Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs.
As the , the newly-named Southland Casino Racing (formerly Southland Gaming & Racing) opened early Monday morning with over 2,000 slots and more than 40 live table games including blackjack, craps, and roulette, as well as three-card poker and Mississippi stud.
The new games were able to be added following the passage of a ballot referendum allowing racetracks to add slot machines and table games.
"With us being a full-fledged casino, that gives us an opportunity to compete on a level playing field with other Mid-South casinos like in Tunica," said David Wolf, president and general manager of Southland.
Meanwhile the Oaklawn Racing Casino (formerly known as the Oaklawn Park Race Track) opened a little after noon on Monday, with the Mayor of Hot Springs Pat McCabe on hand to cast a first symbolic roll of the dice, .
The Oaklawn track has a long history extending back to the very beginning of the 20th century. Oaklawn president Louis Cella alluded to that past in his remarks on the opening and the site’s plans going forward.
"We have remarkably gone through all the previous chapters with the city of Hot Springs, and this is a new chapter with live and legal gambling, and we hope it will only expand like it did in the ’30s, and ’40s and ’50s. It’s new to all of us, and we’ll see how it plays out," said Cella.
While operating, Oaklawn is continuing with a $100 million expansion that will add 28,000 square feet of gaming space in time for the 2020 racing season.
Both sites received casino licenses a week before opening on Monday. Both also are looking soon to add opportunities for patrons to wager on sports (beyond horse racing), as voters also approved an amendment last November allowing Arkansas join other states to begin offering sports betting.
Hard Rock International to Acquire Jack Cincinnati
In other casino news from the midwest, JACK Entertainment announced today that it is prepared to sell the JACK Cincinnati Casino as well as the Turfway Park racing track to Hard Rock International, pending approval by state and federal regulators.
According to the announcement, the deal for $780 million is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Hard Rock International will also enter into a lease agreement with VICI Properties as part of the deal.
Once the sale is complete, Hard Rock International will be in charge of operating both properties. Meanwhile neither the JACK Cleveland Casino nor the JACK Thistledown Racino in North Randall will be affected by the deal.
"After ten years, hundreds of millions of dollars of investment developing JACK Cincinnati Casino from the ground up… we have successfully positioned JACK Cincinnati Casino for further future success," said JACK CEO Matt Cullen in the announcement.
"We are confident that Hard Rock and its world-renowned brand will be a great addition to the Queen City and the right choice to take JACK Cincinnati Casino and Turfway Park to the next level of growth."
The property first opened as Horseshoe Cincinnati in 2013 before rebranding as JACK Cincinnati in 2016.
U.K. Bookmakers Withdraw Games Under Threat of Sanctions
Earlier this week bookmakers came a report that Paddy Power and Betfred might be facing sanctions from the U.K.’s Gambling Commission after offering new roulette-style games too similar to the ones offered on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), reports .
The games were introduced on Monday, the same day new regulations went into effect that reduced the maximum bet on such FOBTs from £100 to just £2. The Paddy Power game called Pick ‘n’ 36 and the Betfred one called Virtual Cycling were both accused of "seeking to undermine the FOBT stake cut."
"We have told operators to take down new products which undermine the changes," said Richard Watson, executive director of enforcement for the Gambling Commission.
"We will investigate any other products that are not within the spirit and intention of the new rules," added Watson. Both Paddy Power and Betfred had withdrawn the games by the time of the Commission’s announcement.
William Hill had also been poised to offer a similar product (called Wonderball), but has apparently abandoned plans to do so in the wake of the possible sanctions.
Photo: "JACK Cincinnati Casino 2017,” JACK Entertainment LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0.
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