By David Caraviello | | 3 mins
Mobile Sports Betting In Arkansas Set For Launch Ahead Of March Madness
With a simple voice vote, legal mobile sports betting in Arkansas at last became a reality.
The state legislature’s Joint Budget Committee on Tuesday morning approved a subcommittee recommendation that the Arkansas Racing Commission allow mobile sports betting within the boundaries of the Natural State. After disagreements in last week’s subcommittee hearing extended that session into a second day, the final OK was almost anticlimactic - it came moments into the session, and was approved without any debate.
Mobile betting sites and betting apps will be able to accept wagers in Arkansas after a 10-day filing period, which will allow mobile betting to begin in the state before the NCAA March Madness tournament opens on March 15.
The 10-day filing period is actually scheduled to expire prior to the start of the men's SEC Tournament on March 9, which means there should be significant college basketball betting interest in the Arkansas Razorbacks from residents in the state. The nationally-ranked Razorbacks are currently No. 18 in the nation and on track to play in March Madness.
Mobile betting was approved with a regulation which mandates that 51% of sports betting revenues must stay with the in-state casinos, a measure that national online sportsbook operators lobbied against.
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State to keep 51% of revenue
The heavy lifting in the mobile sports betting debate was done in a Legislative Council Administrative Rule Review Subcommittee meeting on Feb. 16 and 17, when it took an appearance by the state’s deputy attorney general to convince some members that the Racing Commission had the power to establish casino gambling rules under the state constitution.
Representatives of Arkansas’ retail casinos also argued at that session that the bulk of mobile revenues should stay in the state, leading to the adoption of the rule that Arkansas casinos would keep 51% of revenue - a stark contrast with rules in other states that have legalized sports betting, which typically keep less than 15%.
Arkansas has allowed retail sports wagering since voters approved the measure in a 2018 referendum. Arkansas currently has three casinos, Saracen in Pine Bluff, Southland in West Memphis and Oaklawn in Hot Springs, with a fourth planned for the northwest corner of the state. Which online casino platforms will operate in the state is yet to be determined.
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Catching up to regional rivals
The approval of mobile sports betting in Arkansas comes after two of its neighboring states OK’d the practice: Tennessee, which gave the green light to mobile sports betting in 2020, and Louisiana sports betting, which launched on Jan. 28. Neighboring Mississippi allows mobile sports betting, but only on the grounds of a casino, though several bills are now being debated that would expand the practice statewide.
States with mobile sports betting typically see over 90% of activity done over mobile or online platforms. Tennessee, which has mobile sports betting only, has generated over $2 billion in revenue and $35 million in state tax dollars since mobile betting was legalized, according to the Tennessee Lottery. By comparison, Arkansas generated $69 million in combined casino and sports betting revenue for fiscal year 2020-21, according to the state Department of Finance and Administration.
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