Sports Betting Expert
Arkansas has been one of the few states that only offers legal retail sports betting. Sportsbooks are housed in land-based casinos but in-state bettors do not have widespread access to any mobile betting apps.
A push for a change in the regulations began in 2021. The Arkansas Racing Commission is the governing body controlling sports betting in the state. With previous approval at this level, the matter was put into the hands of a Joint Budget Committee Administrative Rule Subcommittee earlier in 2022.
In a major move forward, this next step of the process was met with a favorable response. The final step to change the current regulations was the approval by the Joint Budget Committee as a whole.
Now that approval has been granted, there is a 10-day waiting period. With everything going as planned, statewide legal mobile sports betting could launch as early as March 4.
Currently, mobile sports betting does exist in Arkansas in a very limited fashion. Casinos with retail sportsbooks can offer legal mobile sports betting on their grounds. This is in addition to actual betting windows and stand-alone kiosks in the physical sportsbook itself.
These mobile apps only extend as far as actual gaming areas in each participating casino. There are a total of three casinos in Arkansas. This includes historic Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, which is home to the annual Arkansas Derby.
Southland Casino Racing is located in West Memphis. The third state casino with legal sports betting is Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff. Arkansas had previously authorized a fourth casino which would be located in Russellville.
Legal sports betting in Arkansas casinos was first launched in July of 2019. The AR Commission then approved mobile sports betting on Dec. 30 of 2021. Yet, an effort to gain final legislative approval ahead of February’s NFL Super Bowl LVI came up short.
The main focus of the current effort is legal mobile betting ahead of the 2022 NCAA Tournament for men’s basketball. On Feb. 17, select state lawmakers approved the changes to the current gambling rules. This moved to issue to a full vote by the state legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, and the proposal was approved on Feb. 22.
The recent launch of legal mobile sports betting in neighboring Louisiana added more pressure to make a change. Tennessee has offered legal mobile sports betting since November of 2020. Given limited access to the three land-based casino properties in the state, proponents of the change have pushed hard to expedite the situation.
There is still some strong opposition among certain Arkansas lawmakers, including Jim Wooten, who is a state representative. However, it now appears that he may be in the minority on this issue.