How Eric Jackson Saved Thoroughbred Racing in Arkansas

In the world of perspiring arts, one man's ingenuity and determination saved an entire industry. Meet Eric Jackson, the visionary who rescued thoroughbred racing in Arkansas and transformed it into a thriving success story. This article delves into the remarkable journey of how Jackson's groundbreaking idea not only revitalized Oaklawn but also had a profound impact on horse racing nationwide.

The Precarious State of Thoroughbred Racing

Discover the challenges faced by Oaklawn and the thoroughbred racing industry in the 1990s.

In the 1990s, Oaklawn and the entire thoroughbred racing industry faced a daunting challenge. The rise of casinos and competing tracks threatened the survival of this beloved sport. With tracks closing across the country, Oaklawn was on the brink of closure.

Eric Jackson, the long-time general manager of Oaklawn, recognized the urgent need for innovation to save the sport. His determination and ingenuity would lead to a groundbreaking solution that would not only rescue Oaklawn but also revolutionize the industry.

The Birth of Instant Racing

Explore how Eric Jackson's idea of Instant Racing breathed new life into the sport.

In the face of adversity, Eric Jackson conceived a bold idea that would change the course of thoroughbred racing forever. Instant Racing was born out of his relentless pursuit to find a solution that would attract new audiences and ensure the survival of Oaklawn.

Jackson's brainchild involved allowing players to bet on historical horse races through video replays. After each race, the bettors would be rewarded with a free spin on a machine that resembled a slot machine. This innovative concept blurred the lines between traditional racing and electronic gaming, captivating both racing enthusiasts and casino-goers.

Overcoming Obstacles and Gaining Support

Learn about the challenges faced by Eric Jackson in gaining support for Instant Racing.

Bringing Instant Racing to fruition was no easy task. Eric Jackson faced numerous hurdles and rejections as he sought out potential partners and support for his visionary concept. However, his unwavering determination and persuasive abilities eventually paid off.

After several unsuccessful meetings, Jackson finally found a breakthrough when he connected with Ted Mudge of AmTote. Together, they presented the idea at a racing industry meeting, where it was met with resounding approval. The Arkansas General Assembly subsequently granted its approval, solidifying Instant Racing as a legitimate form of pari-mutuel wagering.

The Success and Expansion of Instant Racing

Discover how Instant Racing transformed Oaklawn and spread to other states.

In 2000, Instant Racing became a reality at Oaklawn, breathing new life into the track and the entire racing industry in Arkansas. The innovative concept quickly gained popularity, attracting both seasoned racing enthusiasts and newcomers to the sport.

Since its inception, Instant Racing has not only saved Oaklawn but also served as a lifeline for numerous other tracks across the country. Inspired by Eric Jackson's groundbreaking idea, 11 other states have adopted similar electronic gaming systems to help their struggling tracks survive.

The Legacy of Eric Jackson

Reflect on the lasting impact of Eric Jackson's innovation on the racing industry.

Eric Jackson's visionary idea of Instant Racing has left an indelible mark on the racing industry. His innovation not only saved Oaklawn but also revitalized the sport in Arkansas, attracting billions of dollars in wagering and generating substantial tax revenue for the state.

Today, Oaklawn stands as a testament to Jackson's ingenuity and perseverance. With its state-of-the-art facilities, thriving casino, and world-class racing events, it continues to draw top trainers, jockeys, and horses from around the country.

Eric Jackson's legacy extends far beyond the borders of Arkansas. His innovative concept has forever changed the landscape of thoroughbred racing, ensuring its continued relevance and success in the modern era.


Eric Jackson's remarkable journey in saving thoroughbred racing in Arkansas is a testament to the power of innovation and determination. His groundbreaking idea of Instant Racing not only revitalized Oaklawn but also had a profound impact on the racing industry nationwide.

Through his visionary concept, Jackson not only saved jobs and preserved a beloved sport but also attracted billions of dollars in wagering and generated significant tax revenue for the state of Arkansas. His legacy will forever be remembered as a driving force behind the continued success and relevance of thoroughbred racing in the modern era.

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