New, Expanded Arkansas Casinos Boost Tourism

Entertainment, Magazine Features

With the casinos come luxury hotels, resort accommodations and world-class dining

Phase I of the Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff opened in October 2020 as Arkansas’s largest construction project of the year. It was the first purpose-built casino in the state’s history.

Saracen’s gaming floor is 80,000 square feet with more than 2,000 slot machines, 45 table games, sports betting and Arkansas’ only live poker room.

“It’s great having the casino in Pine Bluff,” said Sheri Storie, director of Explore Pine Bluff. “They are doing a wonderful job bringing visitors to our community, and we are very pleased with our casino/Pine Bluff partnership.”

When it’s time to eat, Saracen will not disappoint. Quapaw Kitchens is an open kitchen, Las Vegas-quality buffet and is sure to be a group favorite. The menu hits all the culinary high points from international to regional specialties and all your favorites. It features Southern specialties, seafood, a carving station with all the sides, plus Italian and Asian menus.

Red Oak Steakhouse, the flagship restaurant, is a reason in itself to visit the casino. Red Oak combines wonderful flavors and an attentive staff in comfortable elegance for an evening to remember. Kobe beef, certified by the Japanese beef council, highlights the menu. Red Oak is the first restaurant in the southern United States and only 38th to be certified nationwide.

Fun at Oaklawn Casino

For the sports enthusiast, Legends Sports Bar is the place to be. There’s the sportsbook and a 25-foot video wall to catch all the action and a fully operational in-house brewery. The Legends Sports Bar menu features Legendary Burgers and so much more.

Phase II of the Saracen Casino Resort is in the final planning stages. When completed, it will include a 300-room hotel and 1,600-seat concert venue. (

Saracen Casino Resort

Hot Springs celebrated the Grand Opening of Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort’s $100 million expansion in April of 2021. As Arkansas’s only thoroughbred racetrack, racing along with luxury are the design themes throughout the property. With horse racing, casino action and elegant accommodations, there’s nothing like Oaklawn in the state.

There’s no doubt Oaklawn is first a racetrack then a hotel and casino. Most of the hotel room views are of the actual racetrack, while bed frames take on the refined design of a horse stall with racing art decorating the walls. Even Oaklawn’s fine dining restaurant, Bugler, offers its guests a view of the track.

Along with overlooking the legendary racetrack, Bulger features a wide variety of American cuisine. Regional classics and selected fish and steaks are prepared with many ingredients harvested in Arkansas. Located next to the Bugler, the First Turn patio bar is a great place to watch the races in season, or simply relax on a comfortable evening. Grab a coffee and pastry at Percs or enjoy the 1950s-style eatery Big Al’s Diner in the hotel food court. Enjoy the “Best Burger in town” along with 30 large screen TVs at Silks Bar and Grill in the casino.

One thing you’ll notice throughout the renovated hotel and casino is the use of natural light. Entering the concourse, there’s an abundance of natural light, which is a far cry from the dimly lit casinos of the past. Inside the casino, smoking has been taken away, with designated smoking areas eventually planned for the future. The purpose is to provide arriving guests a feeling of luxury.

The casino expansion features more square footage with natural light, 1,500 slot machines (including video poker) and 32 table games on the floor. Bet your favorite games at Oaklawn’s Sports Book in the casino. The High Limits casino area is designed for the player that favors a VIP service experience, high denomination slot machines and blackjack.

The expansion also includes a luxury spa and fitness center and event center. The latter can entertain 1,000 guests for a plated dinner or 1,500 for a concert. (

The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the opening for the $250 million expansion at Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis. The completed project will add 500 gaming machines and 60 live table games to Southland. A 20-story hotel with 300 rooms is also part of this project. The new casino and restaurants will open mid- 2022, and the hotel will open a few months later. (

By Dave Bodle

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