Oaklawn News


Hot Springs, Ark. (Thursday, March 3, 2016) – Oaklawn President Charles Cella announced today a key management addition designed to better position the storied 112-year-old racing and gaming facility for the future.

Following nearly a year-long nation-wide search, Wayne Smith of Illinois has been selected to serve in the new position of Assistant General Manager. Cella said Oaklawn interviewed a significant number of impressive applicants from coast to coast.  But, Smith stood out because of a broad range of experience that includes accounting, finance, regulatory compliance, hospitality, racing and gaming, all at the highest levels.

A native of Rhode Island and graduate of Northeastern University in Boston, Smith began his career in corporate accounting and finance with ITT Sheraton before taking similar positions with MGM Grand and Caesar’s Entertainment.  He subsequently moved into operations, first with Empire City Racing and Gaming in New York and more recently with Penn National in Illinois.

His resume includes a particular concentration on federal and state regulatory compliance as well as marketing and customer service.

For the past 20 years Smith has been an active volunteer with multiple community and charitable organizations.  Most recently, Smith was on the board of the Joliet Catholic Academy in Illinois and was chairman of the Will County Center for Economic Development in Illinois.

“This is an exciting opportunity,” said Smith.  “Oaklawn is one of the most respected racing and gaming companies in all of America.  The Cella name is highly regarded throughout the industry. And, it is simply an honor to be able to join such a remarkable operation and family company.”

Smith will join Oaklawn before the end of the current racing season that runs through Saturday, April 16.  His wife, Audrey, and their two sons will follow at the end of the school year.

Smith will be joining a management team of seasoned professionals. The team includes General Manager Eric Jackson, Marketing Director Kim Baron, Food and Beverage Director Belinda Castleberry, Wagering and Gaming Director Bobby Geiger, Plant Superintendent John Hopkins, Human Resource Director Kelli Mussa, Information Technology Director Ben Van Wagner and Racing Director David Longinotti.  Brad Keller from California just recently was named Controller at Oaklawn.

Not only is Oaklawn one of the country’s leading Thoroughbred racing centers, it is the #1 tourist destination in Arkansas and a major agri-business economic generator, particularly in Central Arkansas.