if (!window.Zephr) window.Zephr = {}; window.Zephr.accessDetails = {"isAuthenticated":false,"accessDecisions":{},"entitlements":{},"credits":{},"meters":{},"trials":{"NJ3ofC":{"isUsedInDecision":false},"OldsD4":{"isUsedInDecision":false},"AxYQRo":{"isUsedInDecision":true,"isDecrementedInDecision":true,"totalCredits":2,"remainingCredits":1,"tracker":"adg---article-access-default-anonymous","reportInDataLayer":true,"dataLayerCreditsUsedKey":"meterCreditsUsed","dataLayerCreditsRemainingKey":"meterCreditsRemaining"},"gjFVE2":{"isUsedInDecision":false},"LTzwwe":{"isUsedInDecision":false}},"timeTrials":{},"trialTrackingDetails":[],"testGroups":{},"activeProducts":[]}; \r\n This is a huge month in the world of perspiring arts in Arkansas.

\r\n

Ballots have been sent to the members of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and next month we will know who will be in the next class of honorees.

\r\n

It is a great group and some names just jump off the page from the regular and senior lists.

\r\n

One on the senior list is one of those who makes you think, why isn\'t he already in?

\r\n

Eric Jackson, long time general manager of Oaklawn and now a senior vice president, basically saved thoroughbred racing in Arkansas and several other states.

\r\n

The late great Charles Cella was having to consider closing Oaklawn in the 1990s. Thoroughbred racing was taking a national hit but especially Oaklawn since Texas and Oklahoma had opened tracks and Mississippi, Louisiana and Missouri had opened casinos.

\r\n

Oaklawn was on the ropes in 1997 when Jackson came up with an idea that at first seemed like a longshot. It was Instant Racing.

\r\n

Jackson tracked down an introverted genius computer programmer who had retired to the mountains but was intrigued enough to meet with Jackson at a small cafe in Montana.

\r\n

Jackson, like the programmer, doesn\'t like attention, but Jackson\'s enthusiasm and the challenge got to the programmer.

\r\n

The idea was the program would allow players to bet on a horse race from the past and after the video of the race, win or lose, the machine gave the bettor a free spin of what wasn\'t technically a slot machine but looked a lot like one. The catch was the wager was on racing.

\r\n

Jackson\'s first three meetings for potential partners and support came up empty. But then he met AmTote\'s Ted Mudge and they presented it at a racing industry meeting in early 1998 and it was decided the idea was pure genius. The next year Arkansas General Assembly stamped its OK that it was pari-mutual wagering.

\r\n

In 2000 it became a reality at Oaklawn and Southland, which along with every state but one has dropped greyhound racing. Southland is thriving as a casino and has put a serious dent into gambling at Tunica, Miss.

\r\n

Since the first Instant Racing machine was installed, 37 horse tracks in this country have closed and Oaklawn has grown into one of the greatest success stories in racing.

\r\n

Instant Racing matured into electronic games of skill and finally through Amendment 100, a casino and Louis Cella, who took over the track after his father passed, has continued to increase purses, which attracts better horses, trainers and jockeys.

\r\n

A $100 million upgrade of the facility turned the race track into Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort that includes a 5-star hotel and some of the finest dining in the state.

\r\n

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who regularly ships some of his best horses to Oaklawn -- including 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah -- told Cella he had the right idea and was ahead of the game.

\r\n

Jackson, a Hot Springs native and Hendrix College graduate, not only saved the sport and hundreds of jobs, but since 2000 total wagering on racing in Arkansas has been $3.8 billion.

\r\n

Total wagering around the country on Arkansas racing has been $5.1 billion.

\r\n

Total taxes paid to the state of Arkansas has been $295 million.

\r\n

Jackson\'s innovation and hard work have been adopted in 11 other states, mostly to help tracks survive.

\r\n

He may not have played sports in college, but Instant Racing was a touchdown, a walk-off grand slam and a knockout all in one.

\r\n

The world of thoroughbred racing has embraced Eric Jackson as a brilliant and innovative and that saved horse racing at home and across the nation.

\r\n \r\n \r\n ]]>
\r\n \r\n'">

OPINION | WALLY HALL: Jackson saved all of thoroughbred racing


This is a huge month in the world of perspiring arts in Arkansas.

Ballots have been sent to the members of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and next month we will know who will be in the next class of honorees.

It is a great group and some names just jump off the page from the regular and senior lists.

One on the senior list is one of those who makes you think, why isn't he already in?

Eric Jackson, long time general manager of Oaklawn and now a senior vice president, basically saved thoroughbred racing in Arkansas and several other states.

The late great Charles Cella was having to consider closing Oaklawn in the 1990s. Thoroughbred racing was taking a national hit but especially Oaklawn since Texas and Oklahoma had opened tracks and Mississippi, Louisiana and Missouri had opened casinos.

Oaklawn was on the ropes in 1997 when Jackson came up with an idea that at first seemed like a longshot. It was Instant Racing.

Jackson tracked down an introverted genius computer programmer who had retired to the mountains but was intrigued enough to meet with Jackson at a small cafe in Montana.

Jackson, like the programmer, doesn't like attention, but Jackson's enthusiasm and the challenge got to the programmer.

The idea was the program would allow players to bet on a horse race from the past and after the video of the race, win or lose, the machine gave the bettor a free spin of what wasn't technically a slot machine but looked a lot like one. The catch was the wager was on racing.

Jackson's first three meetings for potential partners and support came up empty. But then he met AmTote's Ted Mudge and they presented it at a racing industry meeting in early 1998 and it was decided the idea was pure genius. The next year Arkansas General Assembly stamped its OK that it was pari-mutual wagering.

In 2000 it became a reality at Oaklawn and Southland, which along with every state but one has dropped greyhound racing. Southland is thriving as a casino and has put a serious dent into gambling at Tunica, Miss.

Since the first Instant Racing machine was installed, 37 horse tracks in this country have closed and Oaklawn has grown into one of the greatest success stories in racing.

Instant Racing matured into electronic games of skill and finally through Amendment 100, a casino and Louis Cella, who took over the track after his father passed, has continued to increase purses, which attracts better horses, trainers and jockeys.

A $100 million upgrade of the facility turned the race track into Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort that includes a 5-star hotel and some of the finest dining in the state.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who regularly ships some of his best horses to Oaklawn -- including 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah -- told Cella he had the right idea and was ahead of the game.

Jackson, a Hot Springs native and Hendrix College graduate, not only saved the sport and hundreds of jobs, but since 2000 total wagering on racing in Arkansas has been $3.8 billion.

Total wagering around the country on Arkansas racing has been $5.1 billion.

Total taxes paid to the state of Arkansas has been $295 million.

Jackson's innovation and hard work have been adopted in 11 other states, mostly to help tracks survive.

He may not have played sports in college, but Instant Racing was a touchdown, a walk-off grand slam and a knockout all in one.

The world of thoroughbred racing has embraced Eric Jackson as a brilliant and innovative and that saved horse racing at home and across the nation.