Arkansas Mobile Sports Betting Vote Could Keep Big Sportsbooks Out

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Arkansas casinos could find themselves as the only mobile sports betting operators in the Natural State under proposed rules approved by state regulators today.

Nationally branded sportsbooks asked regulators to vote against one of the proposed rules, which would limit third-party operators like FanDuel and DraftKings to no more than 50 percent of net mobile sports betting revenue in a yet-approved Arkansas mobile market. Remaining net revenue would go to three casinos licensed in the state. 

But the Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC) today voted to approve the proposed rule –  along with rules that would allow statewide sports betting apps.

Former Arkansas lawmaker John Burris, now a lobbyist for FanDuel and DraftKings, told the commission the vote could end up keeping national sportsbooks out of Arkansas altogether. 

“The folks behind me are in the driver’s seat,” he said of the casino representatives. “If they say no to what we offer, we can’t do business here …We just feel like the 50 percent revenue cap requirement keeps us from negotiating in a traditional way that the sports betting companies engage in other states in what is a win-win.” 

Arkansas Casinos Happy With Vote On Proposed Rules

The vote pleased the three casinos, all which control Arkansas sports betting under a 2018 constitutional amendment. All three had requested that the commission approve the rules as written, including the net revenue sharing limit. 

The casinos now operate retail sportsbooks and would have the opportunity to operate mobile sports betting once it’s legal. A fourth, newly-licensed casino planned for Pope County in northwest Arkansas could also eventually enter the mobile fray.

Carlton Saffa with Saracen Casino in Pine Bluff told the commission that the casinos “can do what the national brands can do.”

“It’s not like it’s the Wild West if Pine Bluff is running sports betting on mobile,” he added. 

The proposed rules now go to a legislative oversight committee,with approval possible as early as February. Arkansas legislative staff told Gaming Today on Tuesday that the rules could become effective in March, should they pass legislative review before then.

When Could An Arkansas Launch Happen? 

It’s still uncertain when mobile sports betting could launch in Arkansas under the proposed rules. 

However, ARC spokesperson Scott Hardin last fall told KTHV-TV he is hopeful that Arkansas mobile sports betting will go live by early 2022.

About the Author

Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.

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