Oaklawn Racetrack has been in the city of Hot Springs for over a century, with horse racing early every spring. Since 1904 - this horse track has brought some of the very best racing to the south. Smarty Jones, Zenyatta, Temperance Hill and many other greats have all run on this track over the years. Nov 20, 2018 The Oaklawn horse racetrack in Hot Springs, Arkansas, is set to undergo a $100 million expansion following the state’s authorization of commercial gambling. Welcome to Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort Read More. Sports Wagering Read More. JOIN THE OAKLAWN FAMILY Apply Now. Download the Oaklawn Rewards App Read More. Racing More Racing Info. Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort 2705 Central Ave. Hot Springs, AR 71901 1-800-OAKLAWN. Disclaimer; Employee Log In.
HOT SPRINGS -- The owner of Oaklawn Racing & Gaming on Monday announced a plan to spend more than $100 million the next two years to build a 200-room hotel and expand its casino by 28,000 square feet.
The $100 million project will be one of the state's largest-ever private investments in the hospitality and tourism industry, Louis Cella, president of the Oaklawn Jockey Club and owner of the track, said during a news conference near the track's paddock area. About 200 people, mainly a variety of state and local officials and others involved in the hospitality industry, attended the event.
Oaklawn officials had previously announced a change to the thoroughbred track's 2019 racing season. Its 60-day meet for live racing will open Jan. 25, a couple of weeks later than usual, and close on May 4, the day of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
Cella called the project 'a new chapter' in Oaklawn's 114-year history, its third expansion since 2008, and a boost to Oaklawn's place in thoroughbred racing nationwide and to Hot Springs as a 'premier tourism destination.'
Cella said the project has been planned for four years and would have happened without voters' passage earlier this month of a constitutional amendment allowing casino gambling. The amendment allows casinos at the state's two racetracks -- Oaklawn and the Southland Gaming and Racing greyhound track in West Memphis -- and a casino in Pope and Jefferson counties.
The project includes:
• A 7-story, 200-room hotel with an outdoor pool, luxury spa, a restaurant and two 'presidential' suites. Rooms on one side of the hotel will have a view of the track's finish line; those on the other side will have a view of the Ouachita Mountains to the south.
• A 14,000-square-foot event center, with a capacity for about 1,500 people for concerts, meetings, banquets and weddings.
• Another 28,000 square feet will be added to the casino that abuts Oaklawn's south end, with a new restaurant and food court.
Construction will start right after the track's live racing season concludes May 4, Wayne Smith, Oaklawn's general manager, said. The expanded casino should be complete by January 2020, with the hotel and events center completed by late 2020.
Smith said more than 400 people will be hired full time when the project is complete. About 2,300 people will be involved in the construction, he said.
Construction won't interfere with actual operations of the gaming center or the racetrack except for some detours getting in and out of the facilities, he said.
Although it has opposed similar gambling initiatives in the past, Oaklawn officially stayed neutral on the ballot initiative approved by voters by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Oaklawn officials came to his office in October to discuss their plans. 'This investment would have happened without Issue 4,' Hutchinson said, referring to the measure approved by voters. 'I can't take credit, because this is a private investment, but I still get to celebrate it,' he said.
No state money or incentives are part of the project, he said.
Hutchinson said some 1,500 people work at Oaklawn during the horse-racing season. 'That's a 200-million economic impact,' he said.
Steve Arrison, chief executive officer of the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission, said Oaklawn's expansion will have a positive 'ripple effect' on the rest of Hot Springs' restaurants, hotels, museums and other attractions. Oaklawn's event center, will complement, not compete with, the city's downtown convention center, Arrison said.
Smith, the track's general manager since March 2017, said Oaklawn will eventually increase its purses. The addition of a turf track also is possible, he said.
The gaming amendment approved by voters also allows wagering on sports, but Oaklawn officials said Monday they weren't ready to address that issue.
The Arkansas Racing Commission also still must issue rules and regulations for the casino amendment.
Oaklawn named HGB Design of Memphis as the architect for the expansion and Flintco Construction of Springdale as the contractor.
In August, state Department of Finance and Administration officials projected the state would receive $36 million less a year in fiscal 2020 and 2021 and then $14 million less in fiscal 2022 under Issue 4.
They attributed the projected revenue drop to two factors: Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in Hot Springs and Southland Gaming and Racing in West Memphis being taxed at a lower rate; and the assumption that the two other casinos wouldn't open until fiscal 2022.
A study commissioned by Driving Arkansas Forward, the group behind getting the casino issue on the ballot, projected that 3,000 new jobs would be created in the gaming industry, with a similar number employed indirectly, if the measure passed. The study projected an increase of $5.8 billion in the state's gross domestic product over the next decade.
A Section on 11/20/2018
|Location||2705 Central Avenue|
Hot Springs, AR 71901, United States
|Coordinates||Coordinates: 34°29′06″N93°03′26″W / 34.484999°N 93.057096°W|
|Owned by||Oaklawn Jockey Club, Inc.|
|Notable races||Apple Blossom Handicap (G1)|
Arkansas Derby (G1)
Oaklawn Handicap (G2)
Fantasy Stakes (G2)
Rebel Stakes (G2)
Azeri Stakes (G2)
Southwest Stakes (G3)
Razorback Handicap (G3)
Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3)
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, formerly Oaklawn Park Race Track, is an Americanthoroughbred racetrack and casino in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It is the home to The Racing Festival of the South.
In 2017, Oaklawn was ranked #5 of all thoroughbred racetracks in North America by the Horseplayers Association of North America.
In 2015, a pair of victories at Oaklawn put American Pharoah on the path to becoming American Horse of the Year and the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
Oaklawn Park opened on February 24, 1905. A holiday had been declared in the city to mark the occasion, and more than 3,000 people attended the first day of racing. In its early years, the track only ran six races a day, similar to British cards.
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In 1907, political problems in the state forced the closure of Oaklawn. The closed track was sold to Louis Cella, the original business partners having both died. The track reopened in 1916 under the auspices of the Business Men's League of Hot Springs.
In 1918, Louis Cella died and the ownership of the track was transferred to his brother, Charles. For the next few years, the track was opened and closed periodically because of vagaries in the state's political climate.
In the 1929 Arkansas legislative session, a bill to allow horse racing and parimutuel betting came to a tie vote in the state House of Representatives. The only Republican member of the state House at the time, Osro Cobb of Montgomery County, had been out of the chamber when his name was called. Upon his return, Cobb cast the tie-breaking vote to allow racing and betting at the track.
In the 1930s, the track and 'Spa' combined attracted many horse racing fans. In 1935, Oaklawn increased purses to become competitive with the best tracks across the country. The first Arkansas Derby was run in 1936 for a purse of $5,000. By this time, the track ran a thirty-day race meeting. On October 29, 1940, Charles G. Cella died and the presidency of Oaklawn transferred to his son, John G. Cella (1909-1968). In 1941, purses again set Oaklawn records. By 1943, the Arkansas Derby had a purse of $10,000. Oaklawn stayed open in 1944, after World War II had closed most American tracks, but it did cancel the spring season in 1945.
At the end of WWII, a 30-day late autumn and winter season was held at Oaklawn, touching off an unprecedented period of prosperity. This financed a major clubhouse renovation and a resurfacing of the track.
Throughout the 1950s the track continued to climb in handle, attendance, and purses. In 1956, J. Sweeney Grant became manager of Oaklawn. In 1961, the track extended the season to 43 days. In 1962, the track notched the fifth-highest profit of North American tracks. By 1965, the Arkansas Derby was a $50,000 stakes that could attract top Kentucky Derby prospects. In 1968, Oaklawn president John G. Cella died suddenly and his son Charles J. Cella took over. In 1971, Grant, under whom Oaklawn had enjoyed 16 years of remarkable growth, died.
W. T. Bishop replaced him and the track continued to thrive. In 1972, the Arkansas Derby became a $100,000 stakes; the following year saw the first run of the Fantasy Stakes, a prep race to the Kentucky Oaks. The Racing Festival of the South was created in 1974. The weeklong festival has one stakes race each day, leading up to the Arkansas Derby.
In 1975, Oaklawn completed a renovation that added a five-level glass enclosure to the north end of the grandstand, near the top of the stretch. The addition included a general admission area, a 400 box and 2,500 reserved seats, a kitchen, a dining room and a private club.
In 1983, the all-time record handle was established. The track reached a goal of averaging $3 million in wagering every day. For the 56-day season, the handle amounted to $168,740,923, for an average of $3,013,230 a day. Attendance for the season was 1,303,223, representing a 23,272 daily average. That same year, the purse for the Arkansas Derby was increased to $250,000. In 1984, the purse was again lifted to $500,000.
By 1985, three decades of prosperity began to reverse. Betting declined 8.1% and attendance declined by 3.7% compared to 1984. Increased competition from neighboring states, a lack of Sunday racing, and a lack of race days were blamed.
By 1990, the track was opened for races on Sundays, the grandstand had been enlarged, and attendance began to recover.
Two years later, races began timing in hundredths of seconds, rather than fifths, as with other race tracks around the world.
In 2004, to celebrate its 100th anniversary, Oaklawn Park offered a $5 million bonus to any horse that could sweep its three-year-old graded stakes, the Rebel Stakes and the Arkansas Derby, and then take the Kentucky Derby. Smarty Jones collected the bonus.
In 2015, eventual Triple Crown winner American Pharoah began his Eclipse award-winning season with victories at Oaklawn in the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby.
Just before the 2018 season opened, Oaklawn unveiled a life-sized bronze sculpture of American Pharoah and jockey Victor Espinoza at the grandstand's redesigned entrance. The work, by Philadelphia sculptor James Peniston, had been commissioned two years earlier by then-Oaklawn president Charles Cella to memorialize the horse's victories at the Hot Springs track.
Later 2018, Oaklawn announced that it would start its 2019 racing season a few weeks later than usual, running from late January until early May, lasting the customary 57 days and ending on the day of the Kentucky Derby. Among the reasons given for the change were spring weather conditions and January racing cancellations over the previous decade.
Oaklawn's dirt track is one mile in circumference, with a chute in the backstretch permitting sprint races at 6 furlongs. Oaklawn, like a few other US racetracks, employs two finish lines. Since the distance from the main finish line to the start of the first turn is very short, races at one mile start and end at the 1/16th pole. This reduces the length of the stretch from the usual 1,155 feet to 825 feet.
The original clubhouse was designed by Chicago architect Zachary Taylor Davis in 1904, who would later design Chicago's Old Comiskey Park and Wrigley Field. The track buildings have undergone many renovations and updated barns provide stabling for the horses.
In 2008, Oaklawn began a $3 million addition to accommodate casino-style slot machines, poker tables, and an Instant Racing complex. The casino addition made Oaklawn the largest gambling facility in the state of Arkansas.
The state of Arkansas does not allow traditional slot machines, so the casino has 'electronic games of skill', defined by section 10.17 of the Final Rules of the Arkansas Racing Commission Regulations for Franchise Holders Operating Electronic Games of skill as 'game(s) played through any electronic device or machine that affords an opportunity for the exercise of skill or judgment where the outcome is not completely controlled by chance alone.' 
After Arkansas voters passed a bill to allow live gambling, Oaklawn added live tables.
Stakes races run at Oaklawn Park during the Racing Festival of the South and the Oaklawn Park meet include:
The track also runs numerous overnight handicaps and minor stakes during the Winter and Spring Meets.