A few things come to mind when thinking about Arkansas: Walmart, former President Bill Clinton, hogs, pine trees, the Ozarks, and former Razorback basketball superstar Larry Johnson. Arkansas is the nation’s largest producer of rice and its state beverage is milk. The Natural State is full of friendly people, fun things to do, and the most Walmarts per capita than any other state, but it hasn’t been known for mobile sports betting opportunities – until now.
There may not be very much legal gambling in Arkansas these days, but its gambling history is long and storied. A century ago, Hot Springs, Arkansas was one of the biggest gambling meccas in the entire country, boasting several large illegal casinos and off-track betting long before it was available nationwide. The only thing left from those halcyon days are the hot springs and Oaklawn racetrack, a storied horse track that still has a meet every winter/spring. However, the state’s gambling fortunes have recently changed as legislators have now approved statewide, legal online sports betting. Rules were agreed upon, and the official launch of online sportsbooks in the state took place on May 10th, 2022 with BetSaracen opening the market.
Legal sports betting in Arkansas
Before 2018, there were no casinos or sportsbooks in Arkansas. After an initiative was passed by voters in the state that year, four casino licenses were authorized to be issued by the Arkansas Racing Commission. Two licenses were given to the existing horse tracks in the state (Oaklawn and Southland) that allowed them to turn into racinos. The other two licenses were reserved for new casinos in two specific counties. Saracen Casino Resort opened as a stand-alone retail casino in October 2020. Legends Casino is licensed but has yet to be constructed.
As part of the initiative passed In 2018, retail sports betting was authorized, but mobile gaming remained off-limits. As such, sports betting has been legal in Arkansas since 2018, which actually makes it one of the first states to allow sports betting. Sports betting may have been legal, but until May 2022 you could only place wagers in-person.
|Retail sportsbook||City||Online sportsbook/tech partner||Launch date|
|Saracen Casino Resort||Pine Bluff||IGT||May 2022 (BetSaracen)|
|Legends Resort & Casino (not yet open)||Russellville||TBA||TBA|
|Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort||Hot Springs||SBTech||Early 2022 (est.)|
|Southland Casino Racing||West Memphis||Betly (projected)||Early 2022 (est.)|
Arkansas sports betting regulatory developments
Seeing their neighbors to the east and south (Tennessee and Louisiana) legalize online wagering may have spurred the Arkansas Racing Commission in 2021 to add mobile betting as an option for sports bettors in the state. Of those who submitted comments on the Commission’s proposed rules, many were opposed to expanding sports betting to include mobile betting, but their arguments were generally related to religious opposition to all forms of gambling. The other opposition came from major sportsbook operators like DraftKings and FanDuel. Why were they opposed to mobile betting?
Interesting revenue split in Arkansas
Under the rules finalized and approved by the Commission, online sportsbooks partnering with one of the three casinos would be required to give up 51% of their revenue to the casino. This is unprecedented; some states require sportsbooks to partner with casinos, also called tethering, but no other state requires sportsbook entities to provide a set percentage of revenue to a casino partner. The financial arrangements are always agreed upon by both parties, usually in private. For obvious reasons, the big sportsbook operators prefer this arrangement, in which they receive more revenue after paying the casino a fee to use their sports betting license.
Of course, the three casinos in the state fully support the revenue split provision and lobbied for its inclusion, reasoning that they employ several thousand people in the state and have made substantial investments in the construction and operation of their properties. They believe they are entitled to a majority of statewide mobile sports betting revenue, some of which may come at the expense of customers visiting a retail sportsbook or casino in Arkansas.
This revenue-sharing requirement may not end up being a big deal because Saracen, one of the three casinos, has already announced that they will not partner with a sportsbook operator, instead opting to create their own sportsbook app. Southland has an existing retail partnership with Betly sportsbook and hasn’t announced whether they will partner to offer mobile betting in the state. Oaklawn hasn’t announced its plans for mobile wagering yet but does not currently have a sportsbook partnership at its retail location.
On February 17, 2022, the joint budget committee approved the state’s wagering rules. With it, the 51% rev share was officially locked in.
The Latest Arkansas Sports Betting News
After a couple months of delay, Saracen Casino's mobile sports betting platform has gone live as second option in Arkansas.
While Southland Casino launches various offerings through Betly, Arkansans are still waiting for Saracen Casino's online betting platform.
Saracen Casino Resort failed to launch its mobile platform by March Madness
Advantages of online sports betting in Arkansas
We know online betting is coming to Arkansas even if we don’t yet know which operators will be there. This is great news for the people of the Natural State. The most obvious advantage of online betting is convenience. With online betting, as long as you’re in the state of Arkansas you can wager anywhere you can get a cell phone or wifi signal. Sitting on the couch watching the game? Pull up your favorite sportsbook app and make a wager on the next TD score. Waiting at the dealership for your car to be serviced? Put a few bucks down on the Razorbacks to win the national championship (we can dream). The possibilities are endless with mobile betting.
Number of available bets
Another advantage of mobile betting is the sheer number of available wagering opportunities. From player prop bets to alternate lines to sports across the world, there are thousands of possible bets available on sportsbook apps at any time of the day or night. If a team is playing a sport somewhere in the world, chances are you can bet on it from your smartphone.
Better pricing and promotions
If you go to the sportsbook at Oaklawn, you take a look at the available bets on the betting board and pick the ones you want to make. Then you go up to the kiosk or counter and hand over your cash and get a bet slip. The price is the price, there is no other option. The sportsbook teller is not going to give you a risk-free bet promotion or a deposit match. There is no deposit at all. Cash only.
Compare that scenario to mobile betting. Whatever sportsbook you decide to sign up with will most likely give you a new customer promotion, which we will detail later on. The prices are always competitive because if you don’t want to pay -130 for a spread bet, you can just open up the next sportsbook app on your phone that happens to be offering a much better -110 price. Competition benefits the sports bettor in many ways, but the biggest two advantages are pricing and promotions. Even though there may not be a lot of competition for mobile betting in Arkansas, three different mobile sportsbooks to choose from is much better than just one retail location in each part of the state.
Mobile sports betting operators in Arkansas
Online sports betting is now underway in Arkansas. While the list of available books is currently low (right now there’s just one!), more will follow. Here are the sites that you can bet with right now.
BetSaracen – Saracen Casino Resort
The Saracen Casino was the first retail establishment to get involved in the Arkansas online sports betting market. The Pine Bluff-based casino was very public about its plans to create its own mobile sportsbook to serve bettors in the state. Instead of partnering with an existing brand like DraftKings or FanDuel, they chose to develop their own software… BetSaracen. This is not a common path to take, but we have seen a few casinos create their own online sportsbooks with varying degrees of success. The BetSaracen app looks like a solid product, and they’ve got first mover advantage in Arkansas.
Sportsbooks coming soon to Arkansas
Southland Casino Racing
West Memphis-based Southland already has a retail partnership with Betly, a small sportsbook currently operating in neighboring Tennessee along with not-neighboring West Virginia. Betly may be small, but its ambitions are big, having gone live in Tennessee in early 2022 after a successful debut as one of only a handful of online sportsbooks in West Virginia. Southland hasn’t yet stated whether Betly will be its online partner, but it seems like a real possibility, particularly since the sportsbook knows how to operate online and already works with Southland.
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort
Oaklawn has a sportsbook and a beautiful horse racing facility along with a casino. The Hot Springs-based horse track has a distribution partnership with Churchill Downs, Inc. (CDI) to ensure that its races are simulcast nationwide. However, CDI has recently distanced itself from the online sports betting space with TwinSpires shutting down its sports betting product. We will wait for more news on their involvement in Arkansas. We’ll keep you posted.
Legends Resort & Casino (coming soon)
Ok, Legends doesn’t exist yet, but when it is finally built it will be able to partner with a sportsbook operator to offer online wagering. This will be a golden opportunity for one of the big operators to enter a new state. Legends may be a few years from opening, but we expect a large company like FanDuel, BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, or BetRivers to partner with the casino and fill out the online sportsbook marketplace in the state.
Sportsbook promotions in Arkansas
While there will only be a maximum of four online sportsbooks in the state, bettors in Arkansas will finally be able to take advantage of at least a few different sportsbook promotions that aren’t usually available at retail sportsbooks. Sportsbooks in states with a robust online presence, such as Colorado and New Jersey, offer new and existing customers most, if not all, of the following promotions:
Deposit match – This one is simple. Whatever you deposit when opening an account, up to a certain amount, will be matched by the sportsbook in the form of free bet credits.
Risk-free bet – A very popular promotion offered by a majority of online sportsbooks, a risk-free bet takes the risk out of your first bet. If your first bet loses, the amount is refunded by the sportsbook up to a certain amount, anywhere between $100 to $3000+, typically. This is a great way to check out a new sportsbook, knowing that your first bet is covered, win or lose.
Odds boost – This type of promotion usually has a regional focus or is used to promote an upcoming high-profile event. For example, a sportsbook could offer a boost in the payout for a local favorite team. So if the Razorbacks are playing Alabama, an Arkansas sportsbook might boost the moneyline odds from +150 to +250 in order to get some additional action on Arkansas. If you like the underlying bet, an odds boost is a great way to get a higher payout.
Referral bonus – As an example, FanDuel has a very popular referral bonus: If you send your friend a personalized link that they click on to sign up for an account, you and your friend both get $50 in free credit to use on any wager.
Free bet – Some sportsbooks will give you a few bucks in credit just for signing up for an account. No deposit is required. Fire away on your favorite bet and keep the money if you win. It’s not a lot of money, usually just $5 or $10, but it’s free.
Free merchandise – You cannot underestimate how much people love free merchandise. Give a bettor a t-shirt and he/she will be a customer for life. Ok, maybe not, but free swag does motivate people to sign up for a new account and make some bets.
Free bet match – Similar to a deposit match, a few sportsbooks out there will match your bet, up to a certain amount. We have seen this promotion for new customers making their first bet and as part of a promotion for a big upcoming match, like an NFL playoff game.
Parlay insurance – Parlays are all the rage these days, for obvious reasons. Similar to playing the lottery, people love the idea of turning a little bit of money into a lot of money. Sportsbooks sometimes offer insurance on customer parlays, refunding losses up to a certain amount, usually about $25, if one or more legs of the parlay wager come up short.
Win bonus – This is similar to an odds boost; if you win, you get an extra amount credited to your account. For example, the promotion may be an extra 10% payout on a local team like the Cowboys. If you take the Cowboys and they win, you get an extra 10% paid out, usually as credit.
Arkansas sportsbook banking options
When you go to a retail sportsbook, there is one banking option. You give them cash, they give you a bet slip. If you win, you collect your winnings in cash. The problem with that scenario is that the world is more cashless than ever. People use their smartphones for everything, including banking. If you’re reading this page (thanks for reading, btw), you probably have a checking account, a PayPal account, maybe a Venmo account, and possibly another online account to manage your money. Online banking has made depositing and withdrawing funds from a sportsbook account easier than ever. Online sportsbooks in Arkansas will offer most, if not all, of the following banking options:
- ACH eCheck
- Online banking
- Visa/Mastercard/Discover (deposit only)
- Play+ branded prepaid card
- Gift card (deposit only)
- Cash at casino cage
- Wire transfer
- Paper checks
Sports offered by mobile sportsbooks in Arkansas
At the retail sportsbooks in Arkansas, most available wagers are focused on the major American sports. This makes sense because people in Arkansas generally aren’t demanding to bet on African soccer or Russian hockey when visiting their favorite sportsbook. They want to watch football, basketball, baseball, or maybe even hockey. A few might want to check out the European soccer action if they wander into the casino on a Saturday morning.
With mobile sportsbooks, the available sports to wager on are practically endless. Russian hockey and African soccer are there along with pretty much any other sport you can think of. The full list of available sports depends on the time of year, but mobile sportsbooks in Arkansas will offer most of the following sports:
- Australian Rules Football
- Basketball (NCAA and NBA)
- Football (NCAA and NFL)
- Olympic sports
- Table tennis
Sports betting markets in Arkansas
Markets are wager types – like whether LeBron James will score more than 28.5 points in the night’s game. This type of market is a player prop. Retail sportsbooks simply don’t offer as many prop bets as online sportsbooks, most of the action on the board is related to the games themselves, not individual player performance. Not so with mobile betting. Player props are just a few of the many bet types available. You can also bet on the game as it is being played with live betting odds updated in real time. Online sportsbooks in Arkansas will feature the following bet types:
- Point spread
- Totals (over/under)
- Prop bets
- Parlays (including same-game parlay)
- Live/in-game betting
Arkansas sports betting FAQ
When did online sports betting start in Arkansas?
Online sports betting officially started in Arkansas on May 10, 2022, with BetSaracen taking the first bets. In December 2021, Arkansas Racing Commission voted to expand the existing sports betting regulations to allow for online/mobile sports betting in the state. Under the rules, the three existing casinos that currently offer retail sports betting are allowed to offer mobile sports betting and can partner with an existing operator like FanDuel or BetMGM.
Which mobile sportsbooks will be available in Arkansas?
Since there are currently three retail casinos in the state that each have a sportsbook, and the new rules state that they can each partner with just one online sportsbook, there will be three mobile sportsbooks in Arkansas when all is said and done. Ok, four, because the Legends casino will also qualify for a sports betting license. But who knows when that casino will open, so we will stick with three for now.
Saracen casino has said that they will be rolling out their own branded sportsbook. Southland has a retail partnership with Betly but hasn’t announced its mobile sportsbook plans. Oaklawn hasn’t publicly announced anything related to mobile sports betting. That’s a long way of saying that right now we only know one of three online sportsbooks coming to Arkansas, and it is not one of the major operators. We’ll have to wait for confirmation on the remaining two entrants.
Who can sign up for an online sportsbook account in Arkansas?
When the three mystery sportsbooks do go live in Arkansas, anyone 21 and over who is not prohibited from gambling on sports (usually athletic team employees or those on a self-exclusion list) will be able to sign up for an account. You don’t even need to live in the state to create a sportsbook account. People in neighboring states or anyone who plans on visiting Arkansas can create an account and even make a deposit. However, you can only wager for real money when you are physically in the state of Arkansas. Sportsbooks use geofencing technology to determine the location of mobile bettors, so there is no getting around it. If you’re not in Arkansas, you will not be able to bet with one of the three mobile sportsbooks.