State High Court Upholds Oaklawn Park Gaming Devices

Oaklawn Park officials have no immediate plans to expand the racetrack’s gambling-machine offerings, but they said a Sept. 27 ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court to uphold a law that permitted electronic gaming devices at the track is a major step forward.

The Supreme Court ruling comes on the heels of a May ruling by a judge in Garland County, Ark., where Oaklawn is located. That judge upheld the 2005 state law that allowed local referenda on electronic games of skills.

Southland Greyhound Park in West Memphis, Ark., also has the gaming devices. Oaklawn and Southland have Instant Racing machines, which weren’t an issue in the latest court cases.

“This is an important ruling for us since it enables us to continue to raise purses, to put more people to work on a year-round basis, help boost the state and local economies, and bring about the fruition of the Oaklawn Foundation for the Future of Hot Springs, which will enhance local scholarship and directly benefit our senior citizens,” Oaklawn president Charles Cella said in a Sept. 27 statement released after the 6-1 state Supreme Court vote.

“Thanks to electronic gaming at our facility, we’ve been able to generate over $10 million for purses for our horsemen, which, in turn, has allowed us to present some of the finest racing in North America. There have been hundreds of jobs generated by the addition of electronic gaming and some real excitement about the future of Hot Springs, not the least of which is the foundation, which will be maintained by revenue generated by the electronic games of skill.”

In an interview with The Blood-Horse earlier this year, Oaklawn general manager Eric Jackson said track officials were in a holding pattern pending the Supreme Court ruling on the games of skill. Jackson at the time said Oaklawn was considering constructing a separate gaming facility that would be connected to the clubhouse/grandstand.

Currently, all gaming machines are located on the first floor of the grandstand.

“We have no definite plans for additional development at our facility, but we are studying alternatives which will accommodate the expansion of electronic wagering.” Cella said in his statement. “However, our first priority will be the 2008 live racing season, since horses will begin arriving at Oaklawn in just a few weeks.”

Oaklawn opens for live racing in late January 2008. The track anticipates a record purse distribution of $300,000 per day.

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