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Mobile sports betting has been legal in Arkansas since March, and two local casinos have been operating their own branded mobile apps since then.
In states across the country, national online bookmakers such as FanDuel and DraftKings compete for sports betting customers, but not in Arkansas so far. It seems unlikely that this will change soon.
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Three casinos operate in Arkansas
Carlton Saffa, Market Manager at Saracen Casino Resort, told Gambling.com this week that the statewide mobile launch has been “awesome.”
Pine Bluff Casino launched its BetSaracen product in May, months after Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis made its Betly Arkansas platforms available to computer and cellphone users.
Arkansas’ third casino, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs, has a mobile app, Oaklawn Anywhere, allowing users to bet on horse racing, but hasn’t launched a separate sports betting app. . This launch is planned for soon.
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No national mobile bookmaker
Arkansas casinos are allowed to partner with external online bookmakers, but so far have chosen to only operate in-house applications.
A recent Arkansas Racing Commission rule requires outside bookmakers to share 51% of profits with local casinos when they partner with a sports betting app. These national companies normally share 5% to 15% with local casino partners.
John Burris, a former Arkansas lawmaker representing a coalition of national online bookmakers, previously told Gambling.com that the 51% provision would be a deterrent to large groups that would otherwise want to operate in the state.
This week, Burris said he was unaware of any discussions regarding these live national bookmakers in Arkansas. However, Burris said he has visited state legislators “who are frustrated with what they are hearing from voters about limited choices.”
Burris has previously said he expects an effort at the Little Rock Statehouse next year to undo the 51% disposition. This week, Burris said he wasn’t sure what approach lawmakers might take with sports betting in 2023.
“I’m comfortable letting lawmakers decide which policy approach they think is best,” he said.
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Saffa told Gambling.com that he was not considering partnering with a national brand.
In May, Saffa tweeted that local casinos don’t need national mobile bookmakers like Boston-based DraftKings.
“We were told an Arkansas app wouldn’t work, that we needed a Boston partner. No,” Saffa tweeted.
Southland and Oaklawn have also not partnered with any online bookmaker outside of their own company and have not indicated any plans to do so.
On his Twitter feed, Saffa responded to bettors’ questions and suggestions regarding the BetSaracen app.
Saracen’s reach extends to BetSaracen TV commercials featuring former University of Arkansas Razorback stars such as Joe Kleine, a retired NBA player and Olympic basketball gold medalist. .
Saffa said Saracen is “not done” with app add-ons.
“Since launch, we’ve added PayPal, Venmo, and streamlined some of the deposit flow,” he said. “We’ve made it easy to connect, and it keeps getting better. We’re still waiting for the green light from Visa and Mastercard, and when that happens it will allow direct card entry into the app, as opposed to a digital wallet, and most importantly, Apple Pay and Google Pay.
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Razorback Baseball attracts bets
Saffa said the BetSaracen app has exceeded expectations, especially with the spring launch at the end of the season for major sports such as the NHL and NBA.
NBA betting has attracted the most bets on the app so far, Saffa said. The league’s best-of-seven championship series is underway this month between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics.
“The NBA has been a handful of drivers, and we’re pleased, but not surprised, by the interest in Arkansas athletics,” he said.
This weekend, the Razorback baseball team is competing in an NCAA Division I Regional Super Series against No. 10 North Carolina. The best-of-three series opens Saturday at the ballpark. from the Tar Heels to Chapel Hill.
The eight super regional winners will compete for the national title at the College World Series next weekend in Omaha, Nebraska.
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Football season on the horizon
Until the football season begins in a few months, Major League Baseball should draw the most bets, Saffa said.
The Razorback football team will begin play Sept. 3 at home in Fayetteville against non-conference opponent Cincinnati. Arkansas competes in the Southeastern Conference against top national rivals such as Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M.
Of the 11 states with college teams competing in the SEC, only four have legal, live sports betting. In addition to Arkansas, these include three of its neighboring states, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
The other three states bordering Arkansas do not have legal sports betting. These are Missouri, Oklahoma and the nation’s second most populous state, Texas.
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