Starting at the end of September, non-tipped employees at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort will get a significant pay raise from $9.25/hour to $13/hour.
Tipped members will increase from $2.76/hour to $6/hour.
“Oaklawn’s success is because of our team members,” Oaklawn President Louis Cella said. “And, we are making this change to show that investing in our employees is just as important as the investment we’re making in our facility and its expansion.”
According to the casino, this change makes them "one of the highest minimum wage employers in Arkansas."
The increase will impact just under 1,000 part-time, full time and seasonal employees.
“This move is yet another component of our vision to bring ‘a new level of excellence’ to everything we do when it comes to our current and future team members,” added Oaklawn general manager Wayne Smith.
The statewide minimum wage will increase to $10/hour on January 1st, 2020 and Smith said they wanted to be ahead of the game.
"We've been talking about it for a little while. We've been debating and looking at what the minimum wage increases will be over the next two years," he said.
Smith said they also wanted to make the change before their expansion is completed by the end of January 2021 when they will add about 400 more employees to their team.
"So it’s really about taking care of the folks we have today, making sure that we continue to retain the best of the best folks and then also be able to attract a number of the folks that we want to attract as we go into our expansion," he said.
With the Saracen Casino in Pine Bluff opening its doors next year and the Legends Casino in Russellville still waiting on approval, the gaming competition will be heating up.
Smith said this increase has nothing to do with the others.
"This has everything to do about Oaklawn. We are taking care of the folks that work here at Oaklawn. We are not really concerning ourselves with others in the market," he said.
So how will the other casinos in Arkansas compare to Oaklawn?
If approved, Legends Casino in Russellville says $13/hour for non-tipped employees was written in their plan from the start.
As far as Saracen Casino in Pine Bluff goes, they will be paying above minimum wage, but declined to provide a number - highlighting their extensive benefits.
Smith said Oaklawn just wants to give their employees what they deserve.
"In order to be the employer of choice in all of Arkansas, which is what our goal is to be, you have to start with a fair and competitive wage and that's what we believe we got to," he said.