The live horse racing season is set to begin at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs Friday and there are some significant changes to wagering options.
A new program will allow bets to be placed from anywhere in Arkansas on electronic devices like phones and computers for local, national and international races.
Despite some concerns, Media Relations Manager Jennifer Hoyt said she doesn’t expect betting from home or on the go to impact attendance or revenue for local businesses.
“Where we think this will really help improve our business is during our simulcast season when people from Fayetteville, the Fort Smith area, don’t normally travel to Oaklawn. Oaklawn has always been a great tradition. We don’t expect it to have any effect on our crowds during the live race meets,” Hoyt said.
The new wagering program has also drawn the ire of some groups, like Arkansas Family Council, that have expressed concerns about the growth of gambling and the risk of minors illegally placing bets online. Park officials have previously said there is a verification processes in place that they believe will stop such misuses.
Attendance in the first two days of last year’s opening was over 30,000 and Hoyt said she expects the same this year. She noted corn beef sandwiches, an Oaklawn tradition, will be sold for just 50 cents each on Saturday.