or more than six decades, Southland Gaming and Racing has given people a place to watch races, eat and play poker and blackjack.
The $250 million project is expected to change the game in West Memphis, WREG Memphis reports. Once completed, the expansion will add 400 permanent additional jobs at Southland, company officials said.
"Our investment will include a new casino complex with state of the art games and an exciting culinary program. It will also include a signature 300 room high-rise hotel," said Lou Jacobs, CEO of Delaware North, the company that owns Southland Casino and Racing.
At 4 a.m. Monday, Southland officially began its casino operations, inviting its regular customers to have a first bet on the house, said General Manager David Wolf.
Southland’s games include 2,000 traditional slot machines and 40 live table games, while Oaklawn has added eight live table games to its roughly 1,300 electronic games.
Before the amendment, the tracks had to close for Easter and Christmas, but now they’ll be open 24/7. Both casinos will continue their racing operations unchanged and expect to start sportsbook betting in the coming months.
But that’s just the start for both casinos. Southland expects to break ground in May or June on a $250 million expanded facility, which will include a 20-story hotel with four restaurants. That’ll add an additional 500 slot machines and 20 table games, and Wolf says it will create between 300 and 400 jobs, in addition to the 100 supervisory and management staff positions added in the last five months.
Oaklawn is expanding its facilities as well. In November, the casino announced a $100 million expansion with an expected construction date in May. Those new facilities include a 200-room hotel, an entertainment venue, restaurants, and 28,000 square feet (2600 square meters) of additional floor space for games.
An initial revenue assessment created before the election suggested that the state would initially take a hit financially, because the tax rate for casinos is lower than the tax rate for facilities with electronic games of skill, but would ultimately gain additional revenue.
A new assessment, which assumes only three casinos will operate until 2022, projects that by 2020, the state will generate $31.2 million a year. Starting the following year, any excess revenue over that $31.2 million mark will be dedicated to funding the state’s new highway plan. By 2028, the state predicts more than $74 million in revenue, $43 million of which will fund highways.