Arkansas Racing Commission asks for vote to expand sports gambling to mobile devices

Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 4:41 PM CST
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HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - The Arkansas Racing Commission voted to adopt new rules last Thursday to expand the option of mobile sports gambling for those within the state. Lawmakers will have the final say in late January.

Since 2018, Arkansas casinos have offered sports betting in retail sportsbooks, meaning bets have to be placed on-site at one of three state casinos. The new adaptions of the rules would allow for casinos and the racing commission to host their own gambling mobile apps, where those over the age of 21 could make legal, state-sanctioned bets.

The Superbowl is scheduled for Feb. 12 and that means big dollars for advertising and sports bars.

”There are about four or five other bars, but we’re really the only one that focuses specifically on sports, that’s what the atmosphere is all about,” said Karleigh Williamson, manager at Buckets Sports Bar and Grill. ”We do promote UFC, SEC, we promote basketball. But it’s all about the Superbowl. Superbowl Sunday is where it’s at.“

”Someone who does not place a bet all year, the Superbowl may be that one day that interests them,” said Scott Hardin, the spokesperson for the Arkansas Racing Commission.

Since being legalized in 2018, sports gambling has brought in roughly $104 million in revenue, $70 million in just 2021. While it seems like a large number, that accounts for less than 1% of all gambling and casino earnings in the state during that period.

The Arkansas Racing Commission sees the decision as a success but feels it’s being held back by the current standards, which may not be convenient for several state residents, such as northwest Arkansas.

“Let’s limit it just initially, limited it to on-site casino properties,” Hardin explained. “So if you want to legally place a sports wager you have to get in your car and drive to one of three locations whether it’s Hot Springs, West Memphis, or Pine Bluff. So if you live in Fayetteville you are talking about a six-hour round trip just to place a sports wager.”

That would change if the new rule passes. Wagering on your phone anywhere in the state of Arkansas would be legal. The money would stay within the state of Arkansas.

”This would be a totally legal state-sanctioned app,” said Hardin. “You can put your money in this knowing it’s supported by the state, it’s monitored by the state. It’s not going to some overseas company that’s going to hold your money.”

It’s a win for fans, and businesses.

”We’re all about it, I think it will be a great atmosphere for any bar that gets to do that,” said Williamson. “You can keep your customer here and have a good time, entertain them. And you’re bringing new revenue into your business, which is what we’re all about.”

“We just surpassed $100 million in sports wagers,’ said Hardin. “You can take that and I think it would be extremely conservative to say we double that, triple that, and even maybe beyond that if it passes.

State lawmakers are scheduled to vote on the approved revisions on Jan. 28, which would then go into effect immediately. A significant date, as it would allow time before Super Bowl Sunday, the largest sports gambling day of the year.

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