Arkansas Takes Big Step Toward Legalizing Online Sports Betting

Posted on December 30, 2021
Written By on December 30, 2021

Sports betting in Arkansas is set to expand online.

The Arkansas Racing Commission voted to adopt new rules and regulations Thursday to expand the options for Arkansas sports betting. Arkansas casinos have offered sports betting in retail sportsbooks since 2019. The vote came without discussion despite more than an hour of back-and-forth comments from stakeholders.

The rules need to be approved by a legislative subcommittee, which would likely come in early 2022. Previously, ARC spokesperson Scott Hardin told a local TV station mobile sports betting in the state could launch in early 2022.

Comments did not move the needle

Representatives from national sportsbooks fought to ensure a competitive market, including additional online skins for casinos and a lighter take on sports betting revenue, but to no avail. Several lobbyists for national sportsbook brands, including FanDuel Director of Government Affairs Andrew Winchell, focused on both of those topics during the public hearing portion of the meeting.

The new rules for sports betting allow the state’s three casinos to partner with up to two online sportsbook operators. There is a fourth casino in development.

BetMGM Sportsbook and DraftKings Sportsbook both requested up to or more than four online skins. The two skin rule appears to be a compromise between the national brands and local casinos, whose representatives voiced a desire for one online brand.

Arkansas sports betting profit

The rules include a requirement that 51% of sports betting revenue stay in the state. Several representatives from national sportsbook brands suggested that the profit-sharing requirement with the state’s casinos was unreasonable.

A lobbyist representing several national sportsbook brands said they normally share between 5% to 15% with partners. The lobbyist suggested the commission employ no restrictions and allow the operators to work out their terms with the casinos.

Saracen Casino‘s Carlton Saffa argued the sportsbook companies are happily accepting a 51% revenue share for New York online sports betting. He also took offense to the national brands calling themselves “first-class,” insinuating the Arkansas casinos are not.

Arkansas sports betting history

Arkansas voters approved sports betting in November 2018. Bettors placed the first wagers at Oaklawn Racing Casino in July 2019.

Since then, bettors have wagered more than $104 million, creating $1.9 million in state revenue.

Photo by Michael Woods / The Associated Press
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Pat Evans

Pat Evans is a Las Vegas-based reporter covering sports business. Evans previously worked at Front Office Sports and the Grand Rapids Business Journal. He has authored two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer.

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