Delaware North Chairman Jeremy Jacobs cuts the ribbon to celebrate the opening of Southland Casino Hotel’s expanded gaming space. Holding the ceremonial ribbon were, from left to right: Southland board members Randy Sullivan, Dr. Debra West, Dr. Susan Ward-Jones, Fred Leonard, Reena Holmes, Tom Kennedy and Bill Bissett; West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon; Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge; Mr. Jacobs; Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson; Delaware North CEO Lou Jacobs; and Arkansas Senator Keith Ingram. Not pictured but in attendance were Ness Sechrest, chairman emeritus of Southland Casino Hotel board of directors, and David Wolf, Southland president and general manager.
Delaware North on Tuesday celebrated the opening of the new 113,000-square-foot casino complex at the rebranded Southland Casino Hotel, the company’s longtime gaming destination in West Memphis, Ark., with company executives joining Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to cut the ribbon.
The opening represents the latest milestone of the property’s ongoing $320 million expansion project that began in 2019.
The expanded casino space boasts 2,400 gaming machines, as many as 50 live table games, sports betting, a covered parking garage with more than 1,400 spaces and an array of new restaurant and dining options: the Sports Bar & Grill, Ignite Steakhouse, The Fry House and The Grind coffee shop and the Chairman’s Bar, a tribute to Delaware North Chairman Jeremy Jacobs.
Construction is ongoing for the signature component of Southland’s expansion, a 20-story high-rise hotel tower that will feature 300 rooms, including 216 standard rooms, 72 corner suites and 12 penthouse suites on the top floor. Full opening of the hotel is anticipated this fall.
“The newly expanded Southland Casino Hotel represents a transformative, new age in gaming and entertainment,” Delaware North CEO Lou Jacobs said. “Today’s event is a testament to our commitment to a long-term, mutually beneficial partnership between Southland and the community and leaders of West Memphis, Memphis and Arkansas. We’re confident that this will establish Southland as a destination for not only the Mid-South region, but for gaming enthusiasts from across the country and around the world.
“I’m grateful to our Delaware North leaders and team members for their years of planning and effort to steward this incredible new venue,” he added.
The project has created an estimated 1,500 construction jobs and 400 additional permanent jobs for the new casino complex and hotel, bringing employment at Southland to about 1,200 jobs. Delaware North is privately financing the project with no use of public funds.
“Today’s announcement by Southland Casino Hotel and Delaware North continues the extraordinary success story of this company,” said Hutchinson, who was joined by several other state and local elected leaders at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Southland has brought tourism, revenue and jobs to Crittenden County and the state of Arkansas since 1956, and I wish them well as they continue to grow.”
The expansion project has allowed Delaware North to continue and enhance the positive impact that Southland has on the state’s economy and the support it provides to many worthwhile community organizations in the region, including Arkansas State University Mid-South in West Memphis, East Arkansas Family Health Center and Mid-South Food Bank.
Currently, Southland is estimated to have a total economic impact – via employment, operational spending, charitable giving and taxes paid to the state, Crittenden County and City of West Memphis – of $311 million annually.
Southland opened in 1956 and became one of the most popular greyhound racetracks in the country. Delaware North completed its purchase of the property in 1976, when it was known as Southland Greyhound Park.
“I first touched this property in the early 1960s when I was working with my dad,” Chairman Jeremy Jacobs said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “I instantly recognized that Southland is important to the greater Memphis region, and most especially to the fabric of the West Memphis community.
“Throughout my more than 50-year history with Southland, this facility has been led and supported by remarkable people. The relationships and partnerships that I’ve developed in West Memphis have enriched my life and helped me shape my thinking. I am grateful to share today’s milestone with the past and present champions of Southland,” Mr. Jacobs said.
Under Delaware North’s ownership, major milestones at Southland have included the introduction of electronic games of skill in 2006 with a $40 million project; an $11 million, 200-machine expansion in 2012; and a $38 million expansion in 2015, which added 41,000 square feet and brought the number of gaming machines to 1,700.
In 2018, Arkansas passed an amendment allowing full casino operations in the state, and Southland added traditional live table games. With the introduction of the expanded casino and soon-to-open hotel, the iconic property rebranded as Southland Casino Hotel in 2022.