Arkansas casinos see major losses from COVID-19, but are set to rebound
By Bob Garcia
The casinos took a huge hit, but have already started to see revenue that rivals that of 2019
The COVID-19 pandemic has created havoc among gambling operators an,d while in some states the conditions are not awful, some other states are still struggling with major losses. This is the case for Arkansas, according to the state’s Department of Finance and Administration (DFA), which confirmed that casinos have taken a massive $1.4 billion hit to their revenue. It’s not all bad, though, as things appear to be coming back to normal for the three casinos in the state, and a recovery might happen sooner than expected.
The gaming industry in the Natural State is not a big one; the only venues are the Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, the Saracen Casino Resort and the Southland Casino Racing property. These venues went through the same situation when the pandemic hit the country and the lockdowns started in March, but they were able to return to business later in mid-May. However, even after Governor Asa Hutchinson gave the green light to launch casino operations again, there were strict health policies implemented starting with a limited capacity, so casinos haven’t really been able to run their normal levels of activity.
For instance, the Oaklawn casino reported, between March and July, $700 million less in revenue compared to one year earlier. Southland, on the other hand, reported an even bigger loss, with $743 million in a year-over-year comparison. Lastly, Saracen, which opened for business hardly a year ago, only reported $128 million during that same period, which is 42% less than the $312 million that it got during the first five months of operations that started in September last year.
For all three venues, things have been improving since May. Oaklawn has turned on 780 gaming terminals that generated a $52 million revenue in May, $104 million in June, then to almost $120 million in July – actually July’s numbers are 80% of what they were the previous year. Similar trends can be seen in the other two casinos within the state.