Arkansas Business: Wayne Smith Marks 5 Years as Oaklawn's General Manager
Wayne Smith has been general manager of Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort since 2017. He previously worked as Oaklawn’s assistant general manager. Before that, he served in corporate accounting and financing positions with ITT Sheraton, MGM Grand and Caesars Entertainment. He has experience in accounting, finance, regulatory compliance, hospitality, racing and gaming.
A Rhode Island native, Smith graduated from Northeastern University in Boston with a Bachelor of Science in accounting.
Has the extended racing meet proved as successful as was hoped?
Are there additional challenges due to it, like the weather? The extended race meet into December has been successful. We have been pleased with the response from our horsemen and Arkansans to the change.
How do you keep gaming fresh inside the casino? How often do you change the types of games you offer?
We consistently review slots and table games for performance and trends. We also talk with our guests to see what products they like and/or have played at other casinos around the country. Oaklawn is proud to have been voted best regional casino in Arkansas Business, which shows we have a casino floor that is inviting and new for our guests.
What are customers seeking when they come to game at Oaklawn, and how do you try to meet that need?
When guests come to a casino we hope they are coming to have a fun and exciting entertainment experience. At Oaklawn we strive to give them that fun experience through offering them the game they want and a great service experience.
Oaklawn has more competitors than ever. How do you set yourself apart?
It is certainly a competitive world in the casino space regionally. We believe we have set Oaklawn apart as a racing casino resort. Most of the casinos we compete with regionally have slots, tables and sports wagering, but we strive to offer something for those who want more than a casino: the best thoroughbred racing, a casino, a luxury hotel, a luxury spa, a culinary experience for all tastes, the ability to book your group/meetings in our event center, live entertainment, a state-of-the-art sports bar, etc.
You’ll mark your fifth anniversary as GM in March. What key leadership lesson have you learned in this job?
Patience and being flexible to change.
What’s your read on the labor market right now? Have you been able to fill your open positions?
While we are seeing applications for open positions, there are a few positions we struggle with, like cooks. But for the most part, the labor market is starting to come back to work. It’s much different today than it was, say, six months ago.
What are you most excited about in the current live racing season?
Our fans are having fun.