New Arkansas Casinos Track Customers, Watch What Has Broadest Appeal

Jan 27, 2020

Gamblers enjoying the modern slot machines at the Saracen Annex in Pine Bluff earlier this month. Casino gaming made its debut in Arkansas in 2019.
Credit Arkansas Business

As gambling is expanding in Arkansas, the entities operating the three full-fledged casinos open so far are tracking every aspect of what their customers are doing to find what games have the broadest appeal and target the most ideal demographics.

In 2018, voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing four casinos in the state. Three began offering true games of chance last year. Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs, Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis and Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff have facilities open, while a legal fight continues over who will operate a fourth casino in Pope County.

Arkansas Business delves into how casinos are gathering information in this week’s issue:

Knowing your customer is a business commandment, and for casinos, it may be the most crucial card game.

"Oh my gosh, yes, it’s important," said John Berrey, chairman of the Quapaw Nation of Oklahoma, which is building a $350 million casino hotel and convention complex in economically depressed Pine Bluff. "We use a very expensive system where, once you get your player’s card, we know about you and what you’re playing. We use your driver’s license to set up your account, so we know your age and where you live, and that all goes into our system."

The story also looks at what revenue reports so far show about their operations.

State records offer a glimpse into revenue provided by different kinds of players at Arkansas’ nascent casinos, though they cover less than a full year. Wagers at Saracen’s slot machines totaled $188.4 million over the last four months of 2019; Oaklawn had $1.9 billion in wagers at video terminals, including the “skill-based” games before April and the true slots afterward. Southland, a dog track that is getting out of greyhound racing, was the champion of terminal-based betting with a whopping handle of $3.4 billion.

Oaklawn’s nine-month revenue from casino table games in 2019 was $9.7 million, compared with nearly $16 million at Southland. Saracen will not have table games until its main casino opening, set for June.

KUAR spoke with Arkansas Business reporter Kyle Massey about his story, which can be heard above. His full story can be read here, though it is behind a pay wall this week for subscribers only. It will be accessible for non-subscribers next Monday.