Arkansas Joint Budget Subcommittee Votes Wednesday on Mobile Sports Betting

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Arkansas Joint Budget Subcommittee Votes Wednesday on Mobile Sports Betting
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A legislative vote on Wednesday could put Arkansas closer to having legal mobile sports betting in time for March Madness.

At 7:30 a.m. CT, a legislative subcommittee in Little Rock is set to hear an Arkansas Racing Commission rule change authorizing mobile sports betting across the state.

If the Joint Budget Committee’s 22-member Administrative Rule Review Subcommittee votes Wednesday to approve the rule, it would go before the full committee for final approval.

The full committee is expected to vote on the mobile wagering rule at a meeting on Thursday, beginning at 9 a.m.

If approved there, the rule change would be placed on file in the Secretary of State’s office for 10 days. After that, mobile sports would be authorized in the state.

The 10-day filing in the Secretary of State’s office is a procedural matter. That elected official does not have the authority to stop a filed rule from being implemented.

Razorbacks Are Betting Favorite in Arkansas

With the full committee’s approval, Arkansas mobile sports betting could be operational in time for the NCAA basketball tournaments, known as March Madness.

The men’s and women’s tournaments begin in mid-March and conclude the first week of April with national title games.

The men’s SEC basketball tournament, expected to attract heavy betting, is set for March 9-13 at Amalie Arena in Tampa.

The 19-6 Arkansas Razorbacks are ranked No. 23 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. The team is fourth in the SEC, behind Auburn (No. 2 nationally), Kentucky (No. 4) and Tennessee (No. 16).

Online Bookmakers Object to 51% Profit-Sharing

The state Racing Commission, which regulates all legal gaming in Arkansas, approved a rule change in late December to allow mobile sports betting off casino property. The state is home to three casinos. They are in West Memphis, Hot Springs and Pine Bluff.

A coalition of national online bookmakers, including DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel, object to wording in the rule requiring them to give local casinos 51% of profits when partnering on a mobile app. National online bookmakers typically share 5-15%.

The national bookmakers are expected to contend the 51% provision violates the U.S. Constitution commerce clause prohibiting interstate trade restrictions and discrimination against out-of-state businesses.

Local casinos in Arkansas contend the Racing Commission’s sports betting rule change does not restrict any national online bookmaker from operating in the state.

After the Racing Commission voted in December to approve mobile wagering, sports betting proponents hoped it would be legal in time for the Super Bowl on Feb. 13.

However, an 11th-hour word change in the rule resulted in a legislative vote being pushed back to this week.

Governor Supports Mobile Sports Betting

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he approves of mobile wagering partly because it would keep Arkansas competitive with neighboring Tennessee and Louisiana, where online sports betting is legal.

In Tennessee, mobile sports betting began in November 2020.

Louisiana’s online sports betting program kicked off late last month and already has seen the two largest mobile sports bets ever.

Houston furniture salesman Jim McIngvale, known as Mattress Mack, drove into Louisiana twice before the Super Bowl to place mobile bets on the Cincinnati Bengals to win — one bet of $4.5 million and another of $5 million.

Sports betting is illegal in McIngvale’s home state, Texas.

McIngvale lost his combined $9.5 million wagers when the Los Angeles Rams rallied late to beat the Bengals.

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