The Oaklawn Racing & Gaming facility in Hot Springs, Arkansas will see its casino expanding by 28,000 square feet, and a 200-room hotel built, in a project costing $100 million.
The owner of the track, Louis Cella, president of the Oaklawn Jockey Club, said the expansion was the third since 2008, and part of the city becoming a “premier tourism destination,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
The announcement comes just after the November 6 U.S. midterm elections, which in Arkansas also involved a referendum deciding on Issue 4, involving an expansion of gaming options in the Oaklawn track and West Memphis’ Southland greyhound track, as well as the development of casinos in the Pope and Jefferson counties.
54% of Arkansas citizens also voted, as part of Issue 4, for the regulation of sports betting, as to be legislated.
However, Cella said the expansion had been in planning for four years, and would have proceeded even without the passage of the amendments to the state constitution through the election two weeks ago.
Governor Asa Hutchinson agreed with Cella’s statement, saying, “This investment would have happened without Issue 4… I can’t take credit, because this is a private investment, but I still get to celebrate it,” he said, adding that no money from state coffers was to be used, nor were any incentives given for the project.
The hotel to be built will be seven stories in height, overlooking the track’s finish line on one side, and with the Ouachita Mountains to the side facing south.
An event center for the holding of concerts, weddings, and the like will be built over a space of 14,000 square feet.
According to Oaklawn General Manager Wayne Smith, construction begins May 4, around when the live racing season ends, with the casino expansion set to be completed by January 2020, and the other facilities later that year. The project will require a total of 2,300 workers, with around 400 people to be hired full-time afterwards for regular operations.
Hutchison estimated “a $200-million economic impact” from 1,500 people working at Oaklawn during horse racing season.