Online Sports Betting Legislation Introduced in Arkansas

Online Sports Betting Legislation Introduced in Arkansas
© USA Today

Expanded sports betting could be coming to Arkansas.

Rep. Lee Johnson on Monday introduced House Bill 1942, which would permit online sports wagering in Arkansas. The bill says “the state would benefit substantially from authorizing online sports pools, to be conducted solely by casino licenses within the state and online sports pool operators with whom the casino licensees have a contractual agreement.”

Under the bill, each casino licensee may get up to three skins. The Arkansas Racing Commission would be tasked to promulgate the gaming rules and can decide on the types of wagers and events that can be bet on, in addition to the geolocation requirements, reporting and record-keeping, responsible gaming and advertising requirements that prohibit direct targeting of minors or self-excluded persons.

HB 1942 would allow residents in Arkansas to wager on college sports, in addition to professional sports. “Online sports pool” means players can wager on the internet or mobile applications through computers, mobile devices or other approved interactive devices accepted through a gaming system that has been approved by the Arkansas Racing Commission.

Remote Registration Included

Arkansas residents would be able to register or fund a sports wagering account either in-person at the location of the casino licensee or remotely over the internet through the online operator.

The Arkansas Racing Commission will review each application request from the casinos that apply for an online license. The commission must determine applicants who hold a valid casino license must also be in compliance with the commission before authorized to receive an online sports license.

After submitting an application and the application fee to the commission, applicants will also be eligible to submit a contemporaneous request to the commission for an interim license which would authorize the applicant to immediately act as an online operator intermediary for up to 365 days, pending the commission’s full review of the application.

The commission may also approve certain standards on a temporary basis if a deadline for full compliance with permanent standards is given at the time of approval.

Online sports gambling would be the next step for Arkansas. The state was the eighth in the country to approve sports betting.

Oaklawn in Hot Springs took the first legal sports bet in Arkansas on July 1, 2019. The other two sportsbooks — Southland Casino in West Memphis and Saracen in Pine Bluff — opened in 2020 but temporarily closed for a period because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Players in Arkansas can wager at any of the casinos within the state. Oaklawn in Hot Springs and Southland in West Memphis were turned into casinos, while casino licenses also went to the Quapaw Nation, which built Saracen Casino in Pine Bluff. A casino license also was given for a facility to be built in Pope County.

Arkansas February Sports Betting Dipped

It’s not entirely surprising that Arkansas sports betting handle and revenue dropped in February. That was consistent across states with legal sports betting because the NFL season ended with the Super Bowl, plus there were fewer betting days and one less weekend in the month than in January.

In Arkansas, the total handle fell from $7.2 million in January to $4.47 million in February. Revenue also dipped from $5.8 million in January to $3.8 million in February.

Arkansas bettors can now cross into Tennessee, one of its neighbors to the east, and place mobile bets without having to go to one of the three Arkansas casinos. Tennessee’s all-mobile sports betting market went live on Nov. 1.

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