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Arkansas Sports Betting Could Head Online With New House Bill

Arkansas sports betting could expand beyond its nominal presence this year.

On Monday, Rep. Lee Johnson introduced HB 1942 to allow casino licenses to operate “online sports pools.” The bill is on the House Committee on Rules schedule Wednesday.

Sports betting in Arkansas is currently limited to retail sportsbooks.

Arkansas sports betting going mobile?

The new bill would allow bets on the internet and mobile apps operated by the casinos or their partners.

Each of the state’s four current casino sites could launch up to three skins.

Language in the bill allows for online registration for bettors.

Quick-acting commission

As with current casino and sports betting in the state, the Arkansas Racing Commission would oversee online sports betting.

The bill suggests the commission look at legal sports betting states and adopt rules in a similar framework.

Should the bill be signed into law, the Arkansas Racing Commission is to adopt rules to implement the act within 90 days. Sports betting companies looking to partner with casinos will require a service industry license:

“If the commission determines that the applicant holds a valid casino license and is in compliance with this chapter, the commission shall immediately authorize the casino licenses to operate an online sports pool.”

How Arkansas sports betting got here

Arkansas was the ninth state to launch sports betting. That happened after voters approved expanded casino gaming and sports betting in November 2018.

There are currently four casinos in the state:

  • Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs took the first bets in July 2019.
  • Southland Gaming & Racing in West Memphis launched in January 2020.
  • Saracen Casino Resort in Pinebluff opened in October 2020.
  • A fourth casino site in Pope County is in the works.

Current Arkansas landscape

In the nearly two years of operation, Arkansas sportsbooks have taken more than $55.8 million in bets. Operators have generated $7.7 million in sports betting revenue.

The state taxes casino revenue 13% on the first $150 million. After the first $150 million, the state will implement a 20% tax.

The state has collected a little more than $1 million in taxes.

Nearby states pushing into sports betting

The region’s sports betting options are expanding.

Like Arkansas, Mississippi sports betting is limited to casinos. Tennessee launched mobile-only sports betting in November 2020, potentially limiting bets at Southland just over the border.

Louisiana voters in 54 of the state’s 64 parishes approved of sports betting in November 2020. State legislators are working through what that will look like.

Texas politicians are also looking at what sports betting could look like in one of the largest markets in the US.

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