LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – On Thursday the Arkansas Racing Commission approved rules to allow for mobile sports betting in Arkansas.
Casinos in Arkansas have said it is something many people have been asking for since sports betting was approved by voters with Amendment 100.
Scott Hardin with the Department of Finance and Administration said the numbers seem to back up the sentiment.
“$33 million bet in 2020 moving to 60 million in 2021. More and more Arkansans want to participate in this and I think that’s why you see the Commission approving this,” Hardin said.
Currently Arkansans can only place a sports bet physically inside one of the three casinos in the state. Much of the state is not in a convenient proximity to Hot Springs (Oaklawn), West Memphis (Southland), or Pine Bluff (Saracen) and these rules would allow for the entire state to participate if they choose to do so.
“We just opened up the market to 3 million people who are no further away from their back pocket if they want to place a wager,” Chief Market Officer with Saracen Casino Carlton Saffa said.
Tax collection on sports wagering mirrored what has been bet. In 2020, $583,000 was collected in taxes from sports betting and in 2021 the state brought in $1.2 million.
Hardin said conservative estimates say those numbers could triple with the addition of mobile betting.
The Racing Commission also approved that casinos must keep at least 51% of revenue if they are contracted with a third-party vendor such as Fan Duel or Draft Kings. Other states have much different splits with those companies.
“But you deal with a national operator, who is essentially borrowing your license right? they do everything under your license and in exchange for that they say ‘here’s 5% of what we made, thanks very much’,” Saffa said.
Of the approximately 1,000 responses the Commission got about 20% were not in favor of expanding into mobile betting.
Saffa said Saracen is putting proper identification and geo-tagging at the top of their priorities when it comes to an app.
Saffa said scanning identification like a driver’s license will be part of the sign-up process and Saracen is working with the top technology when it comes to only allowing bets to come from Arkansas.
Hardin said the rule was approved to keep Arkansas betters betting in Arkansas and to comply with federal law.
“You walk over the line in Texarkana into Texas you could not place the bet, but once you moved back over the line, I’d say all bets are off but that wouldn’t be fair,” Hardin said.
The Arkansas Legislative Council is scheduled to take up the issue for final approval on January 28th and, if approved, casinos could have mobile sports wagering up in time for the Super Bowl on February 13.