Arkansas Racing Commission To Consider Mobile Sports Betting Rule

Mobile sports betting could become available in Arkansas by early 2022. 

The Arkansas Racing Commission plans to meet Thursday to discuss a rule that could allow mobile sports betting within the state, according to multiple reports. The state’s three casinos offer on-site betting thanks to Amendment 100, which made retail betting legal in 2018, but mobile betting isn’t yet legalized. 

“When the rules were drafted, it limited sports betting to physically on-site casino property,” Scott Hardin, the commission spokesman, told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “Offering mobile immediately seemed like a large step. This seems like the time to make the move.”

If the rule change moves beyond Thursday’s discussion, there’s still a 30-day public comment period, a formal commission vote, and legislative committee approval needed. The Arkansas Democrat Gazette’s report estimated early February as a possible launch date for mobile sports betting, assuming the approval process goes smoothly. 

Some opposing voices are likely during a potential public comment period. 

Jerry Cox has spoken against widespread gambling previously, and he stands by his stance. Cox is the founder and president of the Arkansas Family Council. 

“Anytime you expand the availability of gambling you run the serious risk of contributing to gambling addiction, which is a problem not just in Arkansas but across the nation,” Cox told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Keeping pace

Proponents of legalized mobile sports betting in the state argue that Arkansas currently loses out on tax revenue by not offering mobile betting. Neighboring state Tennessee has offered mobile betting since Nov. 1, 2020. Louisiana is expected to launch its mobile betting options in the coming months. 

Mississippi is also moving closer to offering mobile betting, as lawmakers hope to introduce an online sports betting bill at the start of 2022. Allowing mobile betting would put Arkansas closer in line with its neighboring states. 

Supporters of mobile sports betting also argue that some people in Arkansas bet using online apps, but they’re placing wagers through offshore sportsbooks rather than regulated and legal in-state options. 

Mobile options likely tethered to casinos 

Based on reports, the rule change would benefit Arkansas’ casinos. The state’s three casinos, which are the Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff, Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis, and the Oaklawn Racing Casino in Hot Springs, would be allowed to either create their own mobile betting app or partner with a major sportsbook operator like BetMGM, Caesars, DraftKings, FanDuel, or others to launch a betting app. 

A fourth casino is expected in Arkansas at some point in the future. The Arkansas Racing Commission voted 3-2 on Friday to issue a casino license to the Cherokee Nation. The casino is expected to be in Pope County. 

“We are eager to put forth our large-scale development plans to the Russellville Planning commission, and ultimately, for litigation to come to an end so that we can proceed with construction,” Chuck Garrett, Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO, said in a statement.

Litigation isn’t quite over, though. 

The commission also voided a license that had been previously issued to Gulfside Casino Partnership. That group was competing with the Cherokee Nation, hoping to open its own casino in Pope County. 

“This issue is pending in circuit court, and we expect it will be resolved through the legal system,” Lucas Rowan, Gulfside’s attorney, said in a statement.

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