Third Arkansas Wagering App Going Live By Football Season

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Third Arkansas Wagering App Going Live By Football Season
© USA Today

A third mobile sports betting app in Arkansas is expected to be available later this summer.

Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort plans to launch its sports betting app by football season, according to General Manager Wayne Smith.

It will join the Betly and BetSaracen apps already in operation. 

“Oaklawn’s current plan is to have our mobile platform in the public by early August, just in time for college football,” Smith said.

The Arkansas Razorbacks open their season Sept. 3 at home in Fayetteville against the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Razorbacks, known locally as the Hogs, enjoy statewide support, competing in the powerful SEC West against collegiate programs such as Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M.

NFL teams from bordering states, including the New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs, also enjoy fan support in Arkansas.

Oaklawn already operates a horse racing app, Oaklawn Anywhere. The sports betting app will require a separate download.

Historic Racetrack

Located in Hot Springs, Oaklawn is home to a historic thoroughbred racetrack. The track is the site of the annual Arkansas Derby, an important prelude to the Triple Crown races that begin every year in May with the Kentucky Derby

At one time, casinos operated illegally but openly in Hot Springs, about an hour southwest of centrally located Little Rock. 

Before state officials shut down the illegal casinos in the 1960s, Hot Springs was a popular vacation spot for gangsters such as Al Capone, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Charles “Lucky” Luciano. 

Oaklawn now is the only full casino in the Hot Springs area. In addition to Las Vegas-style table games, Oaklawn has sports betting kiosks on the gaming floor and a sportsbook with ticket windows.

Betly, BetSaracen First To Launch

Arkansas’ other two casinos launched their mobile sports betting apps and online platforms several months ago.

After mobile sports betting was legalized statewide in early March, Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis was the first casino to go online with its Betly web platform. It later launched a Betly Sportsbook mobile app.

In May, Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff launched its mobile app and web platform under the BetSaracen brand.

National online bookmakers such as FanDuel and DraftKings do not operate in Arkansas. 

A state rule requiring national brands to share 51% of profits with local casinos when partnering on an app is a deterrent to out-of-state bookmakers, John Burris, who represents several national sportsbooks, told These national brands normally share 5-15%.

Burris, a former Arkansas legislator, has said lawmakers during the 2023 legislative session might seek to overturn the 51% profit-sharing provision.

Arkansas casinos contend the majority of profits should remain in-state, where their employees live and work.

This are a bit different in nearby Kansas. That state will likely be more friendly to Kansas online sportsbooks that are coming from other states. We'll have to wait and see how the upcoming sports betting launch will go.

Problem Gambling Program

Also in Arkansas, companies seeking a $200,000 contract to provide a problem-gambling education and treatment program have until Aug. 2 to file paperwork to compete for the project.

Last year, a lawsuit was filed against the Arkansas Racing Commission, stating that the treatment program has not been implemented as required by a 2018 public vote allowing gambling expansion in the state.

The Racing Commission regulates all gambling in Arkansas.

A review committee will score the proposals and announce its choice of a company between Sept. 19 and Oct. 4.

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