LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - The Hot Springs Board of Directors will meet Tuesday night and vote on an appeal to an upcoming expansion at Oaklawn Racing and Gaming.
The appeal was filed by local restaurant and hotel owner, John Girolamo, who said after initially supporting plans to bring more gaming to Oaklawn, he feels misled by company officials who are now promoting inexpensive food and drinks along with the games.
"Without some other alteration to the way that they do predatory pricing then what we will have is a ghost town," said Girolamo.
After filing the appeal, Oaklawn General Manager Eric Jackson responded in a letter which said, "If we are not competitive with other gaming properties, Hot Springs and Oaklawn will suffer."
The issue boils down to pricing; cheap food and drinks are part of the draw bringing visitors from around the region to Oaklawn.
"They're charging $1.99 for a steak if they (customers) get so many gaming points and somebody like me can't compete against that. Plus on top of that, the city's only getting taxed on that $1.99 that somebody spends," added local restaurant owner Matt Fuller. "It's a catch 22. It's a great thing but it's also one of the things that I have to fight against basically to keep my business going."
Fuller and Girolamo are asking city leaders to halt construction plans for an additional 58,000 square feet of gaming space at Oaklawn.
"It needs to go back to the planning commission and have the public actually have an opportunity to put their opinions in," Girolamo suggested. "We're paying to promote them and in turn, they're turning on the people that actually supported them."