Following the JBC’s approval, which didn’t include any debate, Arkansas casinos are allowed to launch sports betting apps after a 10-day waiting period, setting up a potential launch for March 4. Retail wagering has been legal in Arkansas since 2018.
The Arkansas Joint Budget Committee accepts the rule review subcommittee’s report on mobile sports betting.
Mobile sports betting can launch in Arkansas in 10 days, which is ahead of March Madness.
— Bennett Conlin (@BennettConlin) February 22, 2022
Not every Arkansas casino is expected to be ready to launch a mobile sports betting platform by the end of next week, though. For the casinos prepared to launch apps, they would enter the mobile sports betting market not only before March Madness, but also before the SEC men’s basketball tournament, which starts on March 9 in Tampa, Fla. The University of Arkansas figures to be one of the top contenders to win the tournament.
Revenue-sharing rule limits national operators
The process of approving mobile sports wagering rules in the state came with plenty of controversy, even if the JBC discussion didn’t include debate. The Arkansas Racing Commission approved mobile sports betting rules that require the third-party sportsbook operators to partner with Arkansas’ three retail casinos, and the retail location must receive at least 51% of revenue from the partnership.
Most states don’t include that provision, as operators often receive the majority of revenue, in part because of the marketing costs associated with customer acquisition. Other costs, like providing the technology to support a mobile betting platform, also often fall on the operator.
Given the revenue-sharing rule, which national operators frequently spoke out against during the rule-approval process, it’s likely that some national operators will stay out of Arkansas for now. Each Arkansas retail casino — there are currently three in operation with potential for a fourth to soon be built in the state — is allowed two mobile skins. Don’t expect major operators like BetMGM, DraftKings, or FanDuel to enter the Arkansas market in the coming weeks.
Who will launch first?
In the meantime, it’s expected that the retail casinos will use less-known operators or generate their own mobile betting apps. Saracen Casino Resort, for example, plans to launch its BetSaracen app in the coming days.
“We’ve been working on BetSaracen for a year, so today’s vote is exciting for us and for Arkansas,” Saracen Chief Marketing Officer Carlton Saffa told Sports Handle in a statement. “We will launch BetSaracen, an Arkansas born and bred, first-class mobile wagering app, before March Madness.”
LET'S GO, ARKANSAS! pic.twitter.com/ZhD9AwTFqe
— BetSaracen (@BetSaracen) February 22, 2022
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort previously told Sports Handle that it plans to launch its mobile sports betting platform in the third quarter of 2022. There’s a possibility Oaklawn launches its mobile betting platform in the second quarter.
“Oaklawn will work diligently to have our mobile platform in the public within the next quarter or so,” Oaklawn General Manager Wayne Smith told Sports Handle in a statement. “We took a more conservative approach and waited for the racing commission and the legislature to give their approval before we started working with our vendor GAN in getting our mobile platform ready. Our mobile platform will mirror the same wagering menu Oaklawn offers its guests on property, which rivals any national brand’s menu out today. Oaklawn Sports will be the brand Arkansans trust just like we are today with Oaklawn Anywhere.”
Southland Casino has yet to officially announce its plans to launch mobile sports wagering, but the casino hopes to have a mobile offering up and running soon.
“We are looking forward to beginning to offer mobile sports wagering across Arkansas in the coming weeks through our Betly app, which will make it even easier for Southland patrons and others in the state to begin wagering on their favorite teams,” a Southland representative told Sports Handle in a statement. “Many patrons are already using the Betly sportsbook kiosks at Southland. The downloadable app will be a familiar extension of our sports betting experience and allow them to continue to play easily at home and elsewhere in the state.”
It appears that BetSaracen will be the mobile sports betting platform first on the radar for Arkansans looking to do more than wager at retail casinos.