Hot Springs Weighing Economic Impact of Oaklawn on Small Business

Sep 16, 2013

The track at Oaklawn.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Work has already begun on expanding electronic gaming by 50 percent at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs but some residents are voicing concerns it could hurt local businesses. Tuesday night the city’s Board of Directors will consider an appeal questioning the economic impact, traffic issues, and a lack of public notification about the project.

City Director Randy Fale said he’s waiting until Tuesday’s meeting to fully assess the appeal but he generally supports the plan, “We have a major employer who has been with this community over a hundred years and they’re making a continued expansion and investment in this community so I see that as very positive.”

“The initial project itself will be a major construction project in the city, probably somewhere around $20 million. From what I’ve read it’s anticipated to add a couple of hundred new jobs to the community. So, from an economic standpoint I think it stands to improve the economic fortunes of Hot Springs significantly,” said Fale.

Ruth Carney, the Mayor of Hot Springs, said while reviewing the appeal in advance of the meeting she became concerned Oaklawn’s tax burden is lower than downtown restaurants and the supply of free food and drinks may harm local establishments. Carney said an economic impact study was not required before approval of the project but says one would be helpful and necessary to fully understand the impact of expansion.