Revenue up almost 9% at Ark. casinos in 2022

The Arkansas Democrat

The combined total win for Arkansas' casinos in 2022 was $614 million, up nearly 9% from $564.79 million in 2021, according to information provided by Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

Southland Casino Hotel in West Memphis reported the largest total win with $292.78 million last year, up nearly 11% from $264 million in 2021. Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff reported its total win for the year at $162.01 million, up nearly 5% from $154.57 million the previous 12 months. Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs reported a total win of $159.32 million, up nearly 9% from $146.22 million in 2021.

Total win, also know as gross gambling revenue, is the difference between gambling wins and losses before deducting the casino's costs and expenses. The figure in Arkansas includes wins from terminal games like slot machines and video poker; table games like craps and blackjack; and sports betting, both inside the casino and online.

In response to emailed questions, Osi Imomoh, president and general manager of Southland Casino Hotel, said that in 2022, the casino's owner -- Delaware North -- finished a $320 million project to transform Southland into a full-fledged Las Vegas-style casino destination. The project added a 113,000-square-foot casino floor with 2,400 slot machines and 50 table games and 20-story, 300-room luxury hotel and eight restaurants. During the year the complex was rebranded as Southland Casino Hotel. Live greyhound racing there ended in December.

"The new casino floor has performed well, including a New Year's Eve celebration that drew large crowds," Imomoh said. "To continue to build visitation, Southland has enhanced its marketing efforts with a more consistent calendar of promotions and events and a focus on adding members to its Lucky North loyalty program."

He said the casino's hotel was partially opened in July and was completed in December, and it has been marketing withing 300 miles to attract patrons.

"We anticipate more "staycation" guests from Memphis and more guests visiting from Little Rock and other parts of Arkansas, Nashville and other parts of Tennessee, northern Alabama and even St. Louis," Imomoh said.

Carlton Saffa, chief market officer for Saracen Casino Resort, which is owned by the Quapaw Nation, said the casino had a strong year but added that since it first opened its doors, Saracen faced a shifting market -- from the effects of the initial covid-19 shutdown and outbreaks of covid variants that kept customers away, to high inflation and gasoline prices and the economic effect they had on the casino's customer base.

"We don't really know what a normal year looks like," he said in a recent interview.

Officials with Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort did not respond to emailed requests for comment about its financial year.

Amendment 100, approved by Arkansans in the November 2019 election, allows for four casino licenses to be issued in the state -- one each for casinos in Pope and Jefferson counties, and one at each of Arkansas' established racetracks. It also authorizes sports betting.

Nationally, commercial gambling revenue was $60.4 billion in 2022, an annual record, according to the American Gaming Association's Commercial Gaming Revenue Tracker. It was the first year revenue topped $60 billion annually for the sector, beating the previous record of $53 billion in 2021.

Nevada had the most revenue with $14.8 billion for 2022. Arkansas' revenue ranked 19th of the 35 states tracked by the association. The American Gaming Association is a trade group that supports the casino industry in the United States.

It "was a remarkable [2022] for commercial gaming nationwide and in Arkansas," David Forman, vice president of research for the American Gaming Association, said in response to email questions. "Mirroring national trends in its third year with casino gaming, Arkansas set an annual record for gaming revenue driven by consumer demand for casino entertainment and legal sports betting. The impressive year-over-year growth will benefit residents throughout Arkansas as local government entities see increased gaming tax revenue and casinos continue to support area businesses."

In Arkansas, the first $150 million of casino gambling revenue is taxed at 13% and casino gambling revenue over $150 million is taxed at 20%. Taxes from the Arkansas casinos are distributed in the following manner -- 55% goes to the state's general fund; the casino's host city gets 19.5%; the Arkansas Racing Commission Purse and Awards Fund gets 17.5% and the host county gets 8%.

In 2022, the gambling operations paid a total of $90.24 million in taxes to the state from winnings, up from $80.57 million a year earlier.

In 2022, the three casinos saw a total win from terminal wagers of $533.62 million, up from $505.65 million in 2021. Terminal wagers include bets on slot machines and video poker.

Southland's net win from terminal wagers for the period was $255.34 million, up from $238.65 million the previous year. Oaklawn's win from terminal wagers was $142.56 million, up from $131.5 million a year earlier. Saracen's net win for 2022 was $135.72 million, up from $135.5 million in 2021.

Mobile betting figured into the casinos' net win for the first time in 2022.

The state's casinos booked winnings of $10.54 million in total from online betting for the year while in 2021 there was no revenue. Saracen reported the largest win by far with $6.17 million since May; Southland saw winnings of $3.5 million since it began taking bets in March, and Oaklawn booked winnings of $883,761 since September.

Saracen dominated online betting for the year, with more than half the total revenue of the state's casinos. Saffa, the casino's spokesman, said online betting app was two years in development and offers a top-notch gambling experience for it's users.

"There's huge consumer demand for mobile sports betting," he said.

Saffa said online gambling offers the casino an avenue for growth, adding the demographics tend to be younger than typical casino visitors and help to diversify the casino's customer base. That said, he noted online betting is still a small part of the casino's total revenue.

Southland's Imomoh said the casino has a large patron base of Tennessee residents because of its proximity to the border so it launched online/mobile betting in both Arkansas and Tennessee.

When the casinos' on-site sportsbook is added in, Saracen saw a total win from all sports betting of $7.59 million, up from $2.67 million a year earlier; Southland's total win on its sports gambling was $7.03 million, up from $3.7 million; and Oaklawn won $3.28 million, up from $2.54 million in 2021.

Table game total wins totaled for the Arkansas casinos was $62.5 million, up from $50.62 million in 2021. The net win at live table games at Southland was $30.4 million, up from $21.62 million for the year-earlier period. Live table game wins at Saracen were $18.7 million for 2022, up from $16.8 million in 2021. Oaklawn took $13.4 million in table game winnings in 2022, up from $12.2 million the previous year.

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