Southland Casino Racing opens sports betting for Super Bowl LIV

Tuesday 4th February 2020

Southland Casino Racing's sports betting operation experienced a fast start, as its first week saw a flurry of Super Bowl LIV bets.

More than 50% of the West Memphis casino's sports betting volume was for the matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers in the days leading up to the game, said Southland Casino Racing President and General Manager David Wolf.

Wolf said finer data points were still being compiled, but he was impressed with the volume despite the casino launching sports betting quietly Jan. 28 without an immediate advertising blitz.

"I knew it would be busy, but I'm sort of amazed how fast word got out in such a few days without even any advertising," he said. "That was amazing."

The introduction of sports betting comes at a busy time for Southland.

The casino is in the midst of a $250 million expansion, which began after Arkansas voters passed an amendment allowing it to become a full-service casino with the live games and sports betting it offers today.

A new building at Southland will open in September, adding 400 new gaming machines, 50 table games and connect to Southland's sports betting hub, Wolf said. The expansion is also bringing a new hotel, new dining options and additional parking to the casino.

In the midst of the expansion, Southland fielded hundreds of calls weekly inquiring about the status of sports betting there, Wolf said.

Southland needed to get its betting provider ready, along with training staff and setting up infrastructure, before launching the operation, Wolf said. International Game Technology signed a deal Tuesday with Delaware North, Southland's parent company, to provide sports betting technology at Southland in addition to other properties.

"We've been working on this for months," he said. "As we got closer, we wanted to push for the Super Bowl and have everything in place in time for March Madness."

Sports betting volume doubled from Jan. 28 to Jan. 29 at Southland and continued to rise throughout the week, according to Wolf.

The Super Bowl is big business for sports betting operations. The American Gaming Association estimated Jan. 28 that $6.8 billion would be wagered on the Super Bowl this year, up 15% from the 2019 Super Bowl.

Mississippi casinos, including Southland's competitors in Tunica, saw $6.7 million wagered on the game, said Allen Godfrey of the Mississippi Gaming Commission. Data wasn't immediately available Monday for activity in Arkansas, in which sports betting started in July.

The introduction of sports betting will also bring new foot traffic to Southland, who may stick around to try games beyond those tied to sports, Wolf said.

That'd be a welcome development for Southland, which is ending its live greyhound racing operations by the end of 2022 following tumbling interest in the sport. Wolf said then he wanted racing at Southland to end "on our own terms."

Southland is accepting wagers beyond the Super Bowl. NBA and college basketball games, along with NASCAR races and PGA tournaments, are also available to bet on at the venue. Southland's sports betting "hub" is at its Sports Bar & Grill.

Unsurprisingly, Southland is expecting the Memphis Grizzlies, Memphis Tigers and SEC teams to drive plenty of betting volume. More sports will soon be added into the fold, like baseball, Wolf said.

"We're hitting all the major sports and the majority of (betting) volume," he said.

Although Super Bowl LIV helped Southland hit the ground running on sports betting, officials are looking forward to college basketball's March Madness in particular. Betting activity will become buoyed by college basketball for weeks, Wolf said, while Super Bowl bets are placed in a more condensed period.

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