While there aren’t any casinos directly in Little Rock, there is one just 57 miles away and another, closer one set to open in June of 2020.
In 2018, state voters approved an initiative legalizing traditional casino gambling in the state. The measure took affect on April 1st, 2019.
Prior to the bill, there were only electronic gaming machines at a few race tracks, resulting in many Little Rock residents driving to casinos in the bordering states of Mississippi or Oklahoma to experience a more traditional Las Vegas-style casino environment.
Now however, Arkansas has real casinos, with table games including traditional ball roulette and dice craps.
And while there is one casino currently under construction, the nearest casino to Little Rock is still in nearby Hot Springs, which used to be a mecca of gambling, once boasting ten casinos. Nowadays its one casino/race track, Oaklawn Racing & Gaming, makes it the only form of legalized gambling within 100 miles of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Casino near Little Rock, AR
There currently are only three legal casinos, in the state of Arkansas. Two of these are privately-owned, and the third is an Indian casino in Pine Bluff.
Of Arkansas’s three casinos, one is part of a horse racing track, and one is part of a greyhound racing facility. The third, in Pine Bluff is a slots-only preview of the “real” casino opening in the summer of 2020.
Either way, you must be 21 or older to play the slots at the Arkansas casinos, however you only have to be 18 years or older to play the ponies.
(Here’s a map showing you the closest casinos around Little Rock, which is marked by the yellow star)
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort (Red star on map)
Located in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort is the closest casino to Little Rock. With over 2 1/2 million visitors a year, it is the biggest tourist destination in the state of Arkansas.
All total, the resort occupies 200 acres of land 57 miles (or 92 kilometers), southwest of downtown Little Rock.
The drive from Little Rock is roughly an hour, most of which is on Interstate 30.
There’s been gambling at Oaklawn for over a 100 years. The race track opened in 1904 to be exact.
Thoroughbred racing takes place from January to April. The track’s signature event, the Arkansas Derby in April, annually brings in over 60,000 people to the track.
The expansive grandstand provides plenty of seating. General Admission seats are free, however there is a nominal fee for reserved seating.
While it has long been famous for its racetrack, the casino side of the business is bustling as well, especially now that there are more games available.
The casino is pretty big, with 50,000 square feet of gaming space (per Oaklawn), and growing. The current $100 million expansion will add 28,000 more square feet of casino floor space, more restaurants, an entertainment venue, spa and fitness center, and a seven-story, 200 room hotel. Everything is expected to be completed in late 2020.
On the gaming floor, you’ll find just under 1,300 gaming machines, including video poker machines. There are favorites like Willy Wonka machines and the like, with limits starting at a penny.
Oaklawn also has 21 live table games including dice craps and roulette. There are also electronic versions of these games as well. Sports betting is now offered as well, with the casino’s new sportsbook. You can bet at a teller window or via the kiosks.
In addition to the numerous concession stands on the racing side, there are several restaurants at Oaklawn, including Silks Bar & Grill and Bistro 2705. However some restaurants, including the Carousel Dining Room and Post Parade Restaurant, are only open during racing season.
Oaklawn Racing & Gaming Parking
On days when there aren’t races running, parking is free. On race days, there is a nominal parking fee ($2 per day at the time of this writing).
Oaklawn opens up at 8 AM every day of the week. They close at 4 AM Sunday through Thursday, and close at 6 AM on weekends.
And while they serve alcohol, drinks are not free to players and there’s a hefty tax on drinks as well.
Address, Phone & Website
Hot Springs, AR 71901
Website: Oaklawn Racing & Gaming
Saracen Casino Resort
Owned by the Quapaw Nation, this first phase of the casino resort opened in the fall of 2019 with 300 slot machines as part of a convenience store annex.
Located in Pine Bluff, both this annex and the new resort are just 47 miles south of Little Rock. It will be the closest casino to Little Rock. The more spacious casino/hotel is expected to open in June 2020.
Once completed, the casino resort will boast 2,300 slot machines and 50 table games on its 80,000 square foot casino floor. The $350 million dollar project also includes a new 300 room hotel, entertainment venue, restaurants, bars, a spa, and bars.
Other Casinos near Little Rock, Arkansas
Here are other casinos within a reasonable driving distance of Little Rock.
Southland Casino Racing (Brown star)
Arkansas’s only other casino, this 80,000 square foot casino and greyhound racetrack in West Memphis is about a two hour drive away on Interstate 40.
It boasts of just over 2,000 gaming machines and some electronic table games like electronic blackjack and the fun Shoot to Win craps game.
There are also 40 live table games including roulette, Mississippi Stud, Three Card Poker, other carnival games, and dice craps. Thanks to new legislation, Southland Casino Gaming now has a sportsbook.
Southland started out as a greyhound track, and still runs around 6,000 dog races a year.
There are three sit-down restaurants, (including a buffet), and two other fast-casual dining options. The casino is located 134 miles from Little Rock.
While there is not a hotel on the property now, that is about to change, as work is in progress on a $250 million dollar expansion, which will include more gaming floor square footage (set to open in the fall of 2020), and a 20 story hotel tower with 300 rooms. The hotel part won’t open until 2021. The expansion will add 500 more slot machines, 20 more table games and four more restaurants.
(Related: Casinos by Memphis)
Isle of Capri Lula (Purple star)
Located right across the Mississippi border, the Isle of Carpi Lula Casino & Hotel is 121 miles east of Little Rock, or roughly a 2 to 2 ½ hour drive.
The resort rests on the banks of the Mississippi River and boasts 480 hotel rooms.
On their 63,000 square foot gaming floor, you’ll find over 800 slot machines and 20 table games. These are real table games with real cards and dice and such.
Tunica (Black star)
A spread-out bustling casino town, Tunica, Mississippi is 156 miles from Little Rock, (or 171 miles if you stay on I-40). Either way, this makes it roughly a 2 ½ hour to 3 hour drive.
Tunica has six casinos – down from nine just a few years ago. Most of these are very nice, modern casino resorts – boasting nice hotel rooms, spas, restaurants, entertainment venues, and of course, thousands of slot machines, video poker machines and table games, including poker rooms.
The larger casino resorts here include the Gold Strike, the Horseshoe Tunica, Hollywood Casino and Sam’s Town.
Other Casinos by Little Rock
Right across the Oklahoma border to the west, there are a couple of casinos 165 miles away.
These include the Cherokee Casino & Hotel Roland and the Choctaw Casino Pocola, both represented by the orange star on the map.
Other Oklahoma casinos, (including some very nice resorts), are a little further away. Here are their respective driving distances from Little Rock:
* Cherokee West Siloam Springs – 220 miles
* Tulsa – (Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and the River Spirit Hotel/Casino) – 268 miles
* Downstream Casino Resort – 281 miles
* Miami, Oklahoma – There are six smaller casinos here (and more on the outskirts), however Miami, OK is 283 miles away.
* Choctaw Casino Resort Durant – 308 miles away
* Winstar World Resort Casino (the largest casino in the United States) – 338 miles away.
(By Steve Beauregard. Photo courtesy of Oaklawn Racing & Gaming)