Arkansas residents are ecstatic about the latest news as the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) finally approved mobile sports betting rules on Tuesday. Arkansans are now expected to be able to place mobile sports wagers in time for the start of March Madness. There is now a 10-day waiting period before sportsbooks launch in Arkansas on March 4, just in time for the NCAA tournaments.
Revenue Sharing Set in Stone
One of the biggest roadblocks to Arkansas launching mobile sports betting had been the state’s 51% revenue-sharing rule that drew the ire of many national sportsbook operators. However, now that the JBC has approved the regulations for launch, Arkansas will have its third-party sportsbooks partnered with retail casinos, with 51% of revenue from the partnership going to the retail location.
With the revenue-sharing rule set in place, a handful of the big-name national operators will likely stay out of the new Arkansas market. BetMGM, DraftKings, and FanDuel are among the national operators upset with the rule, and each of them sent letters to the Arkansas Racing Commission asking for the rule to be removed. It now seems unlikely any of those platforms will be joining the market in the coming weeks.
Casinos Ready for Launch
While the national sportsbooks expressed distaste with the revenue-sharing rule, retail casinos are excited about the opportunity. Saracen Casino Resort is ready to launch its mobile sports betting platform BetSaracen. Saracen Chief Marketing Officer Carlton Saffa said the company is “largely ready” and anticipates launch before March Madness. Casinos are allowed to have two betting skins, but the expectation is BetSaracen will be Saracen’s only brand for now.
In addition to Saffa, lawyers from Oaklawn and Southland casinos spoke in favor of the revenue-sharing rules. Oaklawn Racing Casino plans to launch its mobile sports betting app in the third quarter of 2022 as it’s taken a “more conservative approach” to the market. Southland Casino has yet to officially announce its plans to launch a mobile sportsbook but hopes to do so soon.
LET'S GO, ARKANSAS! pic.twitter.com/ZhD9AwTFqe
— BetSaracen (@BetSaracen) February 22, 2022
What Comes Next?
Saracen Casino Resort is the only one of the three retail casinos ready to launch its mobile sportsbook, and none of the national brands expected to enter the market at this time, so it appears that BetSaracen will be the only option for Arkansans looking to place mobile wagers when the market first launches.
At 21-6 overall and 10-4 in the SEC at this writing, Arkansas figures to be one of the top contenders to win the SEC Tournament and a solid bet to win the overall March Madness tournament. In just ten days, Arkansas residents can place bets on the Razorbacks from the comfort of their own homes.
Arkansas first launched retail sports betting at Oaklawn in July 2019, at Saracen in October 2019, and at Southland in January 2020. The state has never surpassed $10 million in handle in a month, but that’s expected to change quickly once the mobile market arrives. With a population of just over 3 million people, Arkansas is a significant market ready to be added to the growing sports betting landscape.