Digital Horse racing – the House Wins!

Horse racing in Arkansas was in terrible shape throughout the 1990’s. Oaklawn’s Arkansas Derby had even been dealt a heavy blow when it was found that the jockey of the winning horse used an electric device during the race.” As Steve Shuler in Talk Business Arkansas magazine was told by by Eric Jackson, general manager of Oaklawn, “We were on the ropes in the 1990s, and as we reflect back on that period, I think it’s a miracle that Oaklawn survived. I still have nightmares about those years, because we didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. During the 1990s we had lost approximately half our business.”

But what Oaklawn developed to bring it from the back of the pack was a small machine that resembled a slot machine. It was named “Instant Racing.” It is an “electronic game of skill” or an EGS. Instant Racing is a pari-mutuel format whereby people get information about the race(s), place wagers and then view video clips to see the outcomes.

Oaklawn has added hundreds of Instant Racing machines and brought in over $2.7 billion in wagers for 2012. One year earlier they were just under $1 billion. So the return on the investment is tremendous. Then this will bring in more serious horses and make their venue to begin to rival others because of the large amounts of money wagered.

Back in May of 2011 there was a flood that forced many Mississippi casinos to close. Oaklawn and Southland (in West Memphis) used this as an opportunity to make a concerted effort to be THE alternative for those gamers who could not reach the flooded casinos. But these two casinos could not rest on the effect of this flood. They continued to add hundreds of EGS games and various amenities. Thus they will sustain their gains and continue to grow.

This is good for these businesses and helps keep and add to the local employment situation, which then brings in more tax revenues to the area and the state. The more visitors that comes to game the more money coming “in” to the state than going to other states. This success will also be helpful to the horse-breeding industry and bring in high-quality horses from other states, such as California and New York.

The issue not addressed was for those who, seeking to realize the large pari-mutuel Jackpot, will end up with debt and other losses. The economy needs treatment, it needs sources of growth. But sometimes the nightmares are only beginning for others.


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