Arkansas Casinos Lose a Billion-Dollars Due to COVID-19

Saracen Casino Resort
Article by : Helen Oct 1, 2020

While Arkansas does not have a bustling gaming scene, it does have three prominent gaming vendors (the Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, the Saracen Casino Resort, and the Southland Casino Racing property), each contributing to the economic growth of the state by paying millions of dollars in tax revenues each year.

However, according to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA), the trio has taken a $1.4 billion hit to their revenues on the heels of resuming operations following Hurricane Sally. The casinos’ gross revenue flatlined simultaneously soon after the state issued a mandatory lockdown in March to combat the coronavirus. They continued to incur significant losses until reopening their doors in mid-May.

Per recent reports, the massive dip in revenue seems to be an unfortunate but temporary situation caused by interruptions in operations, largely due to Category 2 storms and the new COVID-19 guidelines for casino and gaming operations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC’s policies, including reducing the seating capacity, implementing strict health codes, and limiting customers’ sharing of objects contributed to the billion-dollar beating as it prevented the casinos from returning to their normal levels of activities.

To put matters into perspective, Oaklawn’s March and July terminal wages were $700 million less than was reported for the same period last year. While Saracen Casino Resort does not have a 2019 comparison as it only started operating in September last year, it pulled in only $128 million, which is 42% less than the $312 million it raked during the first five months of its operations. Southland Casino Racing, on the other hand, incurred a much larger loss of $743 million over the course of a year.

Fortunately, the trio is beginning to turn things around following the state’s directive for casinos to reopen. Oaklawn made 780 gaming terminals accessible to guests and earned $52 million in May. The following month, the reported amount climbed to $104 million and by July, skyrocketed to $120 million. Considering Oaklawn’s revenue, it is clear that the company managed to score 80% of last year’s earnings with only half the machines.

“We are pleased with where our business volumes are today given we are in the middle of a pandemic,” Oaklawn general manager, Wayne Smith, said in a statement. He reiterated that their staff and guests will continue to adhere to the CDC health protocols, including checking temperatures at the door and requiring guests to wear masks while on the property.

“We are proud to maintain the highest standards of cleanliness and believe we are one of the safest businesses to visit,” he continued.

Similarly, Southland flipped the switch on about 1,108 terminals in May and raked in $92 million in wagers that same month. The company went on to report $200 million in wagers in June, as well as $242 million in July. Southland’s turnaround was approximately 90% of their July 2019 earnings, indicating significant returns.

Although Saracen is relatively new to the Arkansas gaming scene, the company followed suit and reported steady growth even amidst construction work on its main building. In May, from a temporary facility, the casino saw $14 million in wagers placed through the property’s 300 terminals. The number increasing to $35 million the following month hit the $42 million mark by July.

The turnout has been exceptional since resuming operations. Our staff is diligent in keeping the annex a safe place for our guests, many who have expressed comfort in returning to the Saracen Annex.

John Berrey, spokesperson for Saracen Casino Resort, LC Rapert


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