Arkansas Sports Betting Begins Online, 21st State with Legal Mobile Wagering

Arkansas has officially joined 20 other states, plus DC, in launching legal online sports betting.

A patron at Southland Casino places a sports bet using a Betly Sports kiosk in February of 2020. The first legal mobile sports bet inside Arkansas was recently placed on the Betly website. (Image: The Commercial Appeal)
A patron at Southland Casino places a sports bet using a Betly Sports kiosk in February of 2020. The first legal mobile sports bet inside Arkansas was recently placed on the Betly website. (Image: The Commercial Appeal)

The Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC) in late December approved of its mobile sports betting regulations. A little more than two months later, Southland Casino in West Memphis was first to launch its regulated online sportsbook.

Southland’s Betly Sports internet sportsbook debuted over the weekend. The platform can only currently be accessed by visiting the casino’s website. Betly apps for iPhone and Android devices are expected to go live in the coming days.

Southland developed its standalone sportsbook product with Game1, a Belgian-based iGaming firm that provides turnkey solutions for the emerging tech space. Southland is owned and operated by Delaware North. In addition to Arkansas, Delaware North owns and/or operates gaming properties in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia.

Betly Sports is running a promo offering new customers $250 in free bets.

DraftKings, FanDuel Unlikely to Enter

Arkansas’ two other casinos — Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff and Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs — plan to launch their online sportsbooks in the coming days. But similarly to Southland, those two casinos are developing their own standalone mobile sportsbook platforms instead of partnering with experienced operators like DraftKings and FanDuel.

Arkansas’ mobile sports betting rules require that the land-based casino retain a minimum of 51% of the gross gaming revenue (GGR) proceeds generated by their online sports betting operations. It’s the first time gaming regulators in any US state have mandated how GGR from online sports betting is divvied up between casino and online sportsbook operator.

ARC received stern criticism on the revenue rule from the sports betting industry during its internet sportsbook regulatory proceedings. But the commission nonetheless included the revenue-sharing mandate with its governing conditions.

The legislation is very unique in Arkansas, as it presents the operators with a lot of other considerations,” Maximbet’s Doug Terfehr told KNWA in Fayetteville. Terfehr is considering partnering with one of the three casinos to offer online sports betting in the state.

“The margin for the operator is really very small, so if you’re cutting into that margin even more so from a market share perspective and a profit share it just creates new considerations,” Terfehr explained.

Timing Ideal

Arkansans are rejoicing at the ability to bet legally both in-person and online. The gaming liberalization comes just ahead of March Madness, the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament that is one of the busiest times of the year for oddsmakers.

Arkansas is ranked No. 14 in the nation in the latest AP Top 25 poll. ESPN’s “Bracketology” tournament predictor currently has the Razorbacks as a four seed.

As for taxes, Arkansas regulations will lump a casino’s sports betting income into its overall total GGR. That sum is subjected to a 13% tax on the first $150 million in GGR. The rate increases to 20% thereafter.

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