Online Wagering Available in Arkansas, But Not Yet on Smartphone Apps

Online Wagering Available in Arkansas, But Not Yet on Smartphone Apps
© USA Today

Online sports betting in Arkansas began Saturday at a single online site, but bettors probably are days away from being able to download more legal wagering apps on their smartphones.

With the launch of its Betly Sportsbook on Saturday, Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis became the first-ever site in the state to offer legal online sports wagering.

Without much fanfare, Southland made its Betly Sportsbook online site available on PC and Apple Mac browsers at www.southland.betly.com. The Betly Sportsbook mobile apps for Android and Apple smartphones are expected soon.

Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff and Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs also anticipate launching mobile apps soon under their casino brand.

Saturday Launch Happened Day of Razorback Finale

After approval from the Arkansas Racing Commission and legislators in Little Rock, mobile sports betting became legal Friday across the state.

Southland, owned by Buffalo, New York-based Delaware North, was first out of the gate with is browser-based sportsbook. Sports betting already has been legal in person at ticket windows and kiosks inside casinos.

The online launch came the day of the Razorbacks’ regular-season finale against the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville. The No. 15 Razorbacks (24-7) fought back from a double-digit deficit before falling 78-74 to the No. 9 Vols (23-7). SEC tournament play starts Wednesday in Tampa.

Saracen, Oaklawn Set to Debut Mobile Apps

Carlton Saffa, Saracen’s chief market officer, told Gambling.com the BetSaracen mobile app should be ready in time for the NCAA March Madness men’s tournament beginning March 15.

Saffa said he is awaiting final approval from payment processors such as Visa and the Apple and Google app stores. That approval could come any day now, he said.

The process to launch a mobile app takes time, Saffa said. He noted that the online launch in some states took months to occur after legalization. Mobile wagering is legal in two of Arkansas’ next-door neighbors, Tennessee and Louisiana.

Oaklawn’s general manager, Wayne Smith, told Gambling.com the resort’s mobile app should be available in the second quarter of the year, sometime from April-June.

“We took a more conservative approach and waited for the Racing Commission and the legislature to give their approval before we started working with our vendor GAN to get our mobile platform ready,” Smith said.

Oaklawn, home of a historic racetrack, already operates a horse racing app, Oaklawn Anywhere. However, bettors cannot use the horse racing app to wager on sporting events.

Major National Apps Unavailable in the State

So far, apps from national online bookmakers such as DraftKings Arkansas sports betting and FanDuel Arkansas sports betting are unavailable.

These national bookmakers are unlikely to partner with an Arkansas casino soon because of a state rule requiring the bookmakers to share 51% of profits with local casinos, said John Burris, a lobbyist representing a coalition of national bookmakers.

National bookmakers typically share 5-15% with casinos.

Burris, a former AR legislator, told Gambling.com local casinos made it clear with the 51% provision that they are not interested in a partnership.

Burris said he will seek to overturn the 51% provision at the 2023 legislative session.

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