First Legal Sports Bet in Arkansas Low-Key But Meaningful

First Legal Sports Bet in Arkansas Low-Key But Meaningful

Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort general manager Wayne Smith cast Arkansas officially into the legal sports betting market on Monday morning with a $5 wager on the Dallas Cowboys to beat the New York Giants in the National Football League season-opener on Sept. 8.

The bet might also eventually cast DraftKings into a new Southern market as sports betting slowly proliferates.

In a ceremony at the Hot Springs facility that was more sedate than many of its predecessors since the Supreme Court repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May of 2018, Arkansas became the ninth state to pass legislation to allow sports betting and have operators begin accepting bets.

Will DraftKings be Arkansas-Traveling?

The function could have major implications for a major sports betting purveyor, however. Legal Sports Report last week asserted that DraftKings was close to finalizing a purchase of platform provider SBTech, which services Oaklawn. DraftKings is already entrenched in neighboring Mississippi with a sportsbook at the Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort in D’Iberville.

DraftKings director of global public affairs James Chisholm said in a statement regarding SBTech inquiries: “DraftKings speaks to a variety of companies regarding various matters in the normal course of business, and it is our general policy not to discuss the specifics of any of those discussions.”

Oaklawn Sportsbook Part of Major Renovation

The remodeled Oaklawn sportsbook, in the north end of the casino, “offers teller wagering as well as fast, user-friendly kiosks and is open seven days a week,” according to an Oaklawn release. Tellers will work windows from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. with sportsbooks open during casino hours.

The sportsbook features six kiosks, with four more just outside of Silks Bar and Grill, which, according to a release “has added TVs for sports viewing.”

The sportsbook, a re-purposed racebook, was part of a $100 million Oaklawn renovation.

Oaklawn GM Yearns for Mobile Element

Smith has repeatedly asserted that he will lobby the Arkansas Racing Commission for a mobile component available on casino grounds only, similar to the allowance in Mississippi. A full mobile option failed in the state legislature this spring because the bill was laden with impediments such as an integrity fee mandate.

Arkansas voters in November approved an expansion of gaming to casinos that includes sports betting. Southland Gaming & Racing remains in limbo as its parent company, Delaware North, remains in a legal dispute with platform provider Miomni, leaving Oaklawn as Arkansas' lone outlet currently.

"You're seeing some good numbers across the country in certain states that have put sports betting out there," Smith told BloodHorse in June. "I really can't tell you what we're going to see here in Arkansas. To us, quite honestly, the fact that we're able to do it is great. It's an amenity that we're going to be offering our casino and our racing fans. That's really all we're thinking of on sports wagering.

“It's just an amenity. It's an amenity that we want to offer to our fans and our guests, and we'll see how it goes. A year from now, I may be telling you it was gangbusters. It did phenomenal."

Arkansas joins Delaware, Mississippi, New Mexico, New Jersey, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island to undertake sports betting since the PASPA repeal. Ten other states or jurisdictions are in some stage of passage or implementation.

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