Arkansas Officials Postpone Request To Legalize iGaming

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Arkansas Officials Postpone Request To Legalize iGaming
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The Arkansas Racing Commission agenda for the May meeting does not include a request to approve online casino gaming statewide, officials said.

Scott Hardin, commission spokesman, told the panel will meet May 6 and will address licensing for a proposed brick-and-mortar casino in Pope County. Online casino gaming is not expected to come up, he said. The meeting is set to begin at 11 a.m. CT in Little Rock.

“This meeting is to take the next steps to launch a new application period for the Pope County casino license,” Hardin said. “Getting this license issued remains the commission’s focus.”

Hardin said a Pope County casino license is expected to be issued by the early fall of 2024. That project would be the fourth land-based Arkansas casino. It is planned for the Russellville area northwest of Little Rock 

The three casinos now operating in Arkansas are Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs, and Southland Casino Hotel in West Memphis.

Casino Executive Seeks iGaming Approval

In March, Carlton Saffa, Saracen’s chief market officer, requested a rule change from the commission to allow online casino gaming, known as iGaming, in the state. This would permit bettors to go onto computers or cellphone apps across Arkansas to play casino games such as slots, craps and blackjack for money.

Arkansas’ three casinos already operate their own mobile sports betting apps and on-site sportsbooks. Sports betting is legal in 38 states and Washington, D.C.

Currently, iGaming is legal in Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island. It generally raises more revenue than sports betting in states that have both.

Saffa’s iGaming request was put on hold, however, pending a resolution to the casino-license issue in Pope County.

“Until Pope County gets done, I don’t really want anything more on our plate,” said Alex Lieblong, commission chairman.

The commission has not set a date for when the iGaming matter might be addressed.

Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration Secretary Jim Hudson said iGaming is not currently under consideration.

“We are not considering the expansion of gaming beyond the current rules,” he said. “This includes offering games online.”

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