They have horses here? 

My name is David K., and I'm a reformed gambler.

It's not that I ever had a real gambling problem, you see, but back during the heady days of my youth, there was nothing I liked better than a trip over to Tunica to the casino, or a jaunt down to Oaklawn to put down some dough on the ponies.

As I've gotten older and accumulated more responsibilities, however, I just can't enjoy gambling anymore. For instance, when I went over last month to check out Oaklawn's flashy new $40 million dollar gaming parlor, which opened to great fanfare in May, all I could think while poking money down the maw of one of their “electronic games of skill” was: “There goes a newspaper I could have bought. There goes a paperback book. There goes a night at the movies. There goes HBO for a month.” Luckily, I stopped before I got to: “There goes a vacation in Pago Pago and a Gulfstream jet,” but you can see my point. 

Like all gambling halls, Oaklawn's new 52,000-square-foot gaming extravaganza is designed to make you forget about pesky stuff like paying the rent. It really is impressive, one reason it's Arkansas Times' readers odds-on favorite place to gamble, including competitors in neighboring states.

Through a lovely set of glass doors, over inlaid marble, up an escalator so long it makes you suspect St. Peter might be waiting at the top, is Oaklawn's state of the art gaming floor. Included are 650 “gaming positions” — seats at video blackjack and poker tables, and the rarely empty stools before those aforementioned “games of skill” (which — for the most part. — take about as much skill to play as deciding whether to get ketchup or mustard on your cheeseburger).

In terms of space, amenities, decor and pretty much any other quality you can name besides the thrill of thinking you might see triple 7's come up, Oaklawn's new space is about a galactic parsec away from the track's previous electronic gaming room, a 37,000-square-foot space that opened under the grandstands in 2003, and which had all the charm of a neon-lit bus station. Players have taken a shine to the new digs. The day we visited, my companion and I had to park maybe two football fields away from the front door. It was genuinely hard to snag a seat at a machine.

From a player's perspective, I couldn't help but think that the games in Oaklawn's new space do seem to be a bit looser than they were in the old digs. Published figures put their total payback at over 94 percent of wagers. Though it might have all been in my head, it did seem to take a good bit longer before I hit my inevitable outcome while gambling, which is to do spectacularly well for awhile, then fall into my patented Broken Wing Death Spiral until I'm flat busted.

The next phase of Oaklawn's gaming expansion, scheduled to open by the time the horses start running in late 2010, will push the bar even further. Plans call for an additional 32,000 feet of floor space, including a buffet, a poker room, 500 more gaming positions, a theater featuring live acts (that part of the equation will be opening in August), and a sit-down restaurant. 

A little light gambling is a great antidote for the summertime blahs, but before you skip over to the bank and withdraw Junior's college fund, be sure to remind yourself of the unwritten truism that lurks behind the etched-glass doors of every casino in the world, from Vegas to Monte Carlo to Hot Springs, Ark. They didn't pay for all that marble and gilt trim by losing, friend.

The electronic gaming wing at Oaklawn is open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.


From the ArkTimes store


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by David Koon

  • The student-led Memory Project at Central takes history high tech

    With stories that matter.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • Central High 60th anniversary

    A schedule of events, consideration of the past and the future, and more.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • Join us Sept. 21 for Pig & Swig!

    Make plans to join Arkansas Times at 6 p.m. Sept. 21 for Pig & Swig, an event centered around two of life's finest pleasures: sippin' whiskey and fine swine. The event, which benefits the Downtown Little Rock Partnership, will be held at the Heifer Project Pavilion and Urban Farm near the Clinton Center.
    • Sep 18, 2017
  • More »

Most Shared

  • ASU to reap $3.69 million from estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn

    Arkansas State University announced today plans for spending an expected $3.69 million gift in the final distribution of the estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn, who died in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
  • Sex on campus

    Look, the Great Campus Rape Crisis was mainly hype all along. What Vice President Joe Biden described as an epidemic of sexual violence sweeping American college campuses in 2011 was vastly overstated.
  • The inadequate legacy of Brown

    LRSD continues to abdicate its responsibility to educate poor black students.

Latest in Top Stories

  • Good for the soul

    The return of Say McIntosh, restaurateur
    • Jun 1, 2010
  • Robocalls are illegal

    Robocalls -- recorded messages sent to thousands of phone numbers -- are a fact of life in political campaigns. The public doesn't like them much, judging by the gripes about them, but campaign managers and politicians still believe in their utility.
    • May 31, 2010
  • Riverfest winds down

    With Cedric Burnside and Lightnin' Malcolm, Steve Miller Band, Robert Cray, Ludacris and more performing.
    • May 30, 2010
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Most Recent Comments


© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation