The Southland Casino in West Memphis, Ark., has completed a $320 million expansion that overhauled the former racino venue into a full-fledged casino and resort.
Arkansas voters in 2018 passed a ballot referendum that amended the state constitution to allow commercial casino gambling with slot machines, table games, and sports betting. However, Arkansas Issue 4, which passed statewide with a little more than 54% of the vote in support of the gaming question, only allows casino gambling in the counties of Crittenden, Garland, Pope, and Jefferson.
Issue 4 authorized the creation of two new, from-the-ground-up casinos, with one each allocated for Pope and Jefferson counties. The referendum additionally allowed the racino facilities in Crittenden and Garland, respectively Southland and Oaklawn Racing, to transition into Las Vegas-style casinos.
Southland, a greyhound racetrack that plans to cease dog racing at the end of the year, announced soon after the 2018 referendum that it would spend hundreds of millions of dollars to overhaul the West Memphis facility into a casino destination. Parent company Delaware North said the property would be equipped with a hotel and many of the typical amenities expected at an integrated resort.
This week, the Buffalo-based gaming and hospitality firm announced that the $320 million overhaul of its Arkansas casino has been completed.
Premier Mid-South Casino Destination
Arkansas lawmakers supported asking voters about Issue 4 in order to keep hundreds of millions of dollars gambled by Arkansans at casinos in neighboring states inside Arkansas. More than one in two voters seemingly agreed that legalizing and regulating casinos is in Arkansas’ best interest.
Along with Southland in Arkansas, Delaware North operates casinos or racinos in Arizona, Florida, Ohio, West Virginia, and New York. The firm believes its $320 million investment in Southland has created a “premier Mid-South casino destination.”
What began 16 years ago as a racino with 750 slot machines is now a casino with not only slots, but also table games and sports betting.
The Southland expansion is the culmination of a legacy project for Delaware North,” said Delaware North CEO Lou Jacobs. “The completion puts Southland on the map as a true casino destination that will draw patrons from both near and far.”
Southland opened in 1956 and became one of the most popular greyhound racetracks in the country. Delaware North purchased Southland in the mid-1970s. Gaming was added in 2006.
Southland’s new casino floor spans more than 113,000 square feet and is fixed with roughly 2,400 slot machines, 50 live dealer table games, and a Betly Sportsbook.
Betly is the sports betting subsidiary of Delaware North. In addition to Arkansas, the Betly Sportsbook is operational in West Virginia and Tennessee.
Southland’s newly opened, 20-story hotel tower features 300 guestrooms, including 20 penthouse suites. A variety of bars and restaurants also opened in conjunction with the new casino and hotel, Delaware North said.
Southland is the largest of the three casinos in Arkansas. Oaklawn Racing’s $100 million overhaul in Hot Springs resulted in a casino with about 1,500 slots, 30 table games, and sports betting. And the entirely new $350 million Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff features roughly 2,000 slots, 30 tables, and sports betting. Saracen is owned and operated by the Quapaw Nation of Oklahoma.
Pope County’s casino opportunity remains clouded in legal challenges.
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