In 2018, state voters approved an initiative legalizing traditional casino gambling in the state. The measure took effect on April 1st, 2019.
Prior to the bill, there were only electronic gaming machines at a few race tracks, resulting in many Arkansas 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.
These are new, spacious resorts too. One was completed in the fall of 2020, while the other (Oaklawn) finished a $100 million dollar expansion in the spring of 2021.
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 in Hot Springs, and one is near Memphis. The third, in Pine Bluff, is a newly-opened Native American casino/hotel.
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.
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort
Located in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort is the most popular tourist destination in the state. There’s been gambling at Oaklawn for over 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 78,000 square feet of gaming space after the $100 million dollar expansion.
Renovations added 28,000 more square feet of casino floor space, more restaurants, meeting space, a huge 140,000 square foot entertainment venue, and a seven-story, 200-room hotel, complete with, an outdoor pool, spa, and fitness center.
On the gaming floor, you’ll find 1,531 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 30 live table games including dice craps, baccarat, three-card poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’em, and roulette. There are also electronic versions of some of these games and the Interblock Stadium gaming area. The live table games run from 10 AM to 6 AM, every day of the week.
Sports betting is now offered as well. Oaklawn Sportsbook has live teller windows and kiosks. In addition, betting is available at the Oaklawn Sportsbook at Sports Tavern on the racing side (only open on race days).
In addition to the numerous concession stands on the racing side, there are several restaurants at Oaklawn, including The OAK Room & Bar, Silks Bar & Grill, Big Al’s Diner & Deli, the Track Kitchen, and the more upscale, The Bugler.
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort Parking
On days when there aren’t races running, parking is free. On race days, there is a nominal parking fee ($5 per day at the time of this writing).
Valet parking (for hotel guests) is $20 per day. On race days, valet parking for non-hotel guests is $30.
Oaklawn is open 24 hours a day, every day of the week.
And while they serve alcohol, drinks are not free to players and there’s a hefty tax on drinks as well.
Address, Phone & Website
2705 Central Avenue
Hot Springs, AR 71901
Saracen Casino Resort
Owned by the Quapaw Nation, the Saracen Casino Resort is located in Pine Bluff, just 47 miles south of Little Rock.
The first part of the tribe’s introduction of gambling into the area was the “annex”. It opened in the fall of 2019 with 300 slot machines as part of a convenience store annex.
Since then, the $350 million dollar construction project across the way has brought the new casino floor square footage up to 80,000 square feet in size. There, you’ll find 1,900 slot machines and 35 table games. The selection includes all of the favorites: blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat, Louisiana Stud, and 3-Card Poker, among others. Table games run until 4 AM, seven days a week.
You can play poker here! Yay! The 11-table room spreads $1/3 and $2/5 hold’em and they have a variety of high-hand promotions, bonuses for quads, a royal flush, etc. The Saracen Sportsbook is very modest, with just a few TVs, chairs, and six betting kiosks.
Also included in the project is a new 13-story, 300-room hotel, a spacious entertainment venue, spa, and bars. However, there have been some complicated legal disputes regarding the architectural plans for the hotel portion and thus construction of this seems a long way off.
So for now, it’s a casino only. On that casino floor, you’ll find a self-serving beverage station for players. Alcoholic drinks are served. While not free, they are available at a minimal cost (lower than restaurant or bar prices I mean).
You must be 21 years or older to gamble at the Saracen Casino.
Saracen Casino Resort Restaurants
Your dining options here include the Red Oak Steakhouse, Legends Sports Bar, the Saracen Express and Sweets coffee shop, the Quapaw Kitchens Buffet.
The Post Food Court will feature four different quick-serve restaurants: Delta Farms (salads, flatbread, etc), Saracen Express (burgers, fried foods), The Taqueria (Mexican food), and Sweets Coffee Shop.
Saracen Casino Resort Address, Website & Phone Number
1 Saracen Resort Drive
Pine Bluff, AR 71601
Phone: (870) 686-9001
Website: Saracen Casino Resort
Southland Casino is a 113,000-square-foot casino and greyhound racetrack in West Memphis, located 134 miles from Little Rock, about a two-hour drive on Interstate 40.
It boasts around 2,400 gaming machines and some electronic table games like electronic blackjack and the fun Shoot to Win craps game.
There are also 50 live table games including roulette, Mississippi Stud, Three Card Poker, other carnival games, and dice craps. Thanks to new legislation, Southland Casino & Racing 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).
As part of a partially-completed $320 million dollar expansion, Southland will soon finish work on a 20-story hotel tower with 300 rooms. It’s expected by the end of 2022.