Online Sports Betting Could be Coming to Arkansas Early Next Year

Online Sports Betting Could be Coming to Arkansas Early Next Year
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The Arkansas Racing Commission is set to vote Nov. 18 on a rule change that would allow bettors to use their smartphones and computers in wagering anywhere in the state on live sporting events. The commission regulates gaming in Arkansas.

If the rule change is approved as anticipated, Arkansas online sports betting could begin in the state by January or early February, Scott Hardin, the commission spokesman, told Gambling.com.

Before mobile betting could begin, the rule change would have to be published online for 30 days and go through a public hearing process. After that, the revised rule would require approval from the joint legislative Rules Committee and a sign-off from Gov. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., Hardin said.

Though the legislature is not in session, the joint Rules Committee meets regularly in Little Rock to address various issues throughout the year. Legislators are expected to approve a mobile sports-betting endorsement from the seven-member Racing Commission.

The governor has said he supports mobile sports betting if the Racing Commission implements safeguards such as geofencing to restrict wagering to approved statewide boundaries.

Hutchinson noted that mobile sports betting would keep Arkansas competitive with neighboring states such as Louisiana and Tennessee.

Bordering States Go Mobile

Mobile sports betting in Louisiana has been legalized and will become operational once the companies that provide sports-betting smartphone apps, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, are vetted and licensed.

That process should be completed by early next year, state Gaming Control Board Chairman Ronnie Johns told Gambling.com. Sports betting inside commercial casinos at ticket windows began last week at four Louisiana hotel-casinos.

Though Tennessee does not have commercial casinos, legal mobile sports betting began in the Volunteer State in November 2020.

Another Arkansas neighbor, Mississippi, is expected to address mobile sports betting at the legislative session that begins in January at the Capitol in Jackson.

Mobile sports betting is permitted on casino grounds in Mississippi, but only one casino in the state — the Gold Strike, an MGM Resorts property in Tunica — is set up to allow that, Jay McDaniel, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, told Gambling.com. Tunica is on the Mississippi River, about 40 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee.

The Legislature is expected to take up bills to allow off-site mobile sports betting across the state.

On-Site Betting in Arkansas

Arkansas also permits on-site mobile sports betting, though none of the state’s three commercial casinos offer that service.

The Racing Commission rule change would allow Arkansas’ casinos to partner with online sportsbook operators to allow off-site mobile sports betting anywhere in the state on smartphones or computers, Hadin said.

Two of Arkansas’s three casinos are in the central part of the state.

Oaklawn Casino Resort is in Hot Springs, about an hour southwest of centrally located Little Rock.

For decades until the 1960s, casinos operated openly but illegally in Hot Springs, attracting the country’s most notorious mobsters, including Al Capone, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Charles “Lucky” Luciano.

Oaklawn now is the only legal casino in the area. The resort also is home to a longtime horse track with a prominent horse racing history. The annual Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn is regarded as an important prelude to the Triple Crown races each year.

This year’s racing season at Oaklawn runs from Dec. 3 to May 8. Oaklawn offers an app, “Oaklawn Anywhere,” that allows users to wager on horse racing.

Saracen Casino Resort is in Pine Bluff, about 45 minutes south of Little Rock. Like the other Arkansas casinos, Saracen offers Las Vegas-style table games and has a sportsbook where bettors can place in-person wagers.

In West Memphis, Southland Casino Racing operates a gambling hall and dog track across the Mississippi River from Memphis. Greyhound racing is slated to end at Southland next year. With Iowa also expected to end dog racing in 2022, West Virginia would be the only state with legal greyhound racing.

When mobile sportsbetting began in Tennessee, the handle at Southland’s on-site sportsbook dropped sharply. The “handle” is the amount of money bet on sporting events.

A fourth commercial casino has been approved for construction in Russellville in the northern part of the state but has been tied up in a legal battle.

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