Mobile Sports Betting Pulled Off Arkansas Legislative Agenda

Mobile Sports Betting Pulled Off Arkansas Legislative Agenda
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An rule change to allow Arkansas online sports betting had been scheduled to go before a legislative panel on Wednesday for consideration but has pulled from the agenda.

This means mobile sports betting might not be legal in Arkansas until sometime in March or later.

Plan Was to Start Before Super Bowl

Mobile sports wagering proponents had hoped it would be legalized in time for major betting opportunities in February, such as the Winter Olympics early in the month and the NFL Super Bowl on Feb. 13.

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The Arkansas Legislative Council’s Administrative Rules Subcommittee had a hearing scheduled for Wednesday on the new mobile sports betting rule.

If the subcommittee had approved the rule on Wednesday, it would have gone Friday before the full Arkansas Legislative Council for a final vote.

However, the sports-betting rule has been pulled from both agendas, according to Nikki Langston, the Arkansas Racing Commission’s administrative analyst. The commission regulates all gaming in the state.

It was unclear Wednesday when the Arkansas Legislative Council plans to take the mobile sports betting rule under consideration. Mobile sports betting can begin in Arkansas soon after the council’s final approval, state officials told Gambling.com.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, has said he supports mobile sports betting partly because it will keep Arkansas competitive with neighboring states where it is legal.

Racing Commission Votes to Change Wording

The Racing Commission unanimously voted Tuesday in an emergency meeting to change one word in its proposed rule to allow mobile sports betting across the state.

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In a brief teleconference call, the commission voted on a “correction” to the rule, changing net gaming “revenue” to net gaming “receipts.”

Commission attorney Byron Freeland said changing that one word gets the proposed sports betting rule in line with the language in a state constitutional amendment that voters approved in 2018 expanding casino gambling in the state.

Racing Commission Agree to Allow Mobile Sports Betting

On Dec. 30, the Racing Commission voted to change the state rule limiting sports betting to on-site ticket windows and kiosks inside casinos. The new rule, once approved by the Legislative Council, would allow mobile sports betting anywhere in Arkansas.

The state’s casinos are Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff, Oaklawn Casino Resort in Hot Springs, and Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis. A fourth hotel-casino has been approved in Pope County but has not been built.

The rule that the commission approved in December grants local casinos 51% of profits in partnering with name-brand online bookmakers such as FanDuel and DraftKings. These national bookmakers typically share 5-15%.

A coalition of online bookmakers opposed the 51% provision in rule, saying profit-sharing arrangements should be negotiated between themselves and their casino partners, not mandated by a government rule.

The Arkansas casinos contend the majority of profits from mobile sports betting should remain in-state, which the casinos employ thousands of workers and have invested millions of dollars in construction costs and business operations.

The postponement of Wednesday’s legislative meeting could lead to further discussion about the 51% provision in the mobile sports betting rule.

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