Southland Casino Racing launches live gambling with early bird crowd

Southland Casino Racing inaugurated Arkansas’ new area of live table games with the opening of a craps table at 4 a.m. Monday.

David Wolf, president and general manager of the West Memphis facility formerly named Southland Gaming & Racing, said the casino attracted Friday or Saturday night business on a Monday afternoon.

Customers arrived as early as 2-3 a.m. at the newly renamed casino to secure at the first craps table to open, Wolf said. Southland is open 24/7 year-round.

“This craps table over here has been packed since 4 a.m.; the last 7-8 hours, it’s been full, and we’re about to open a second table. People are waiting for this (second) table,” Wolf said about 1 p.m.

Craps, roulette, blackjack and poker tables were operating in a section of gaming floor flanked by some of Southland’s 2,000 slot machines.

“We’re really  pulling our business almost at a full spread,” Wolf said. “Traditionally you wouldn’t do this until a Friday, Saturday night. And right now we’re getting Friday-Saturday night business on a Monday afternoon.”

Southland has offered electronic since 2006, but voters last November approved statewide referendum allowing three casinos with live games.

Southland’s ownership at Delaware North Corp. responded by announcing a $250 million expansion that will include a 300-room, 20-story hotel, 100,000 square feet of new gaming space for 2,500 slot machines and 60 table games, plus five restaurants, three bars and a sports bar.

Wolf said tentative plans called for a groundbreaking in late April or May on the new facilities on vacant land next door to the spot where Southland began as a greyhound racetrack in 1956. Greyhound racing will remain a fixture.

The new casino will take about a year to build, and the hotel about 18 months.

When table games are fully ramped up within the existing facility, Southland plans to offer about 40 tables, split between the gaming floor downstairs and an upstairs area that will be opened at peak times.

About 18 games were in operation Monday afternoon.

Wolf said because of the change in Arkansas law, Southland also is now free to say “slots” in its advertising, which previously referred to “gaming”.

Wolf said Southland had hired about 100 people, mostly dealers and supervisors, bringing its total workforce close to 900. The hotel and casino expansion will push total employment to near 1,200, he said.

When Southland looked for new employees, it was fortunate to have a large gambling industry employment base in the Memphis area, because of Tunica county, Mississippi, he said.

Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, a horse track in Hot Springs, Arkansas, that added live craps and blackjack Monday, is holding a job fair Wednesday and Thursday, April 3-4, at an America’s Best Value Inn in Tunica County to hire people.

The job fair runs 3-7 p.m. Wednesday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at the hotel at 4250 Casino Center Drive, Robinosville, Mississippi.

Oaklawn also is expanding. It has set a groundbreaking this spring on a 28,000-square-foot gaming addition to open by the 2020 racing season, followed by a 200-room luxury hotel opening by the 2021 season.

Southland targeted Memphis, Tunica and the Mississippi Gulf Coast with advertising for employees, said Jeff Strang, director of marketing.

Wolf said, “We were a little surprised when we posted for it. We got a large number of people who wanted to work here. A lot from Tunica, some are coming from the coast, who either used to be here and relocated out, and from different parts of the country, that moved out of the area and wanted to come back. I didn’t expect such a huge response. No problem with table games. In fact we have a waiting list.”

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