Mobile Sports Betting Coming to Arkansas in Time for March Madness

  • Sports betting operators now have a ten-day waiting period before they can roll out
  • State casinos will retain a minimum 51% of revenue from online sportsbook partners
  • Sportsbooks could challenge the rule in court, citing the Dormant Commerce Clause
  • Saracen Casino has said its sportsbook app will go live in time for March Madness
Basketball with Arkansas flag
Fans betting on the Razorbacks this March Madness can do so on their mobiles after Arkansas’ JBC gave its approval for the market to launch. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Gone in 60 seconds

Arkansas expects to go live with its legal mobile sports betting market before March Madness. The new launch date comes after a state Joint Budget Committee (JBC) approved mobile betting rules in under a minute during a meeting this week.

triggers a ten-day waiting period

Tuesday’s approval triggers a ten-day waiting period before sports betting operators can roll out in Arkansas.

Saracen Casino Resort — Arkansas’ first standalone casino — took to Twitter on Tuesday to share news that its BetSaracen sportsbook would “soon just be an app away” for Arkansans:

While the JBC approved the Administrative Rule Review Subcommittee’s report in a flash, the latter had a harder time of it. The body endured long debates last week over a troublesome rule proposed by the Racing Commission. The subcommittee ultimately approved the rule, which states Arkansas casinos must retain a minimum of 51% of revenue from all contracts with third-party vendors.

Sportsbooks fight against the 51%

Leading sportsbooks nationwide have unsuccessfully lobbied against Arkansas’ rule granting casinos over half of their proceeds. The majority split is something new in the US, with casinos typically taking an average share of just 5-15%.

It prohibits online sports pools if “a majority of the net casino gaming receipts […] from the online sports pool is paid to a third-party vendor.”

goes against the Dormant Commerce Clause

According to Legal Sports Report, John Burris of Capitol Advisors Group lobbied against the rule on behalf of sportsbooks such as DraftKings and FanDuel. Burris contended that it goes against the Dormant Commerce Clause, which stops laws that discriminate against out-of-state businesses.

Saracen Casino chief marketing officer Carlton Saffa doesn’t condemn lobbyists for using this argument. “I don’t blame the lobbyists for the national vendors for trying this tactic,” LSR cited Saffa as saying. “They have no other tactic to try. You have to play the cards you have. … It wasn’t a particularly good argument but a bad argument is better than no argument.”

BetSaracen ready for action

Saffa, of course, is raring for his BetSaracen sportsbook app to go live in time for the NCAA tournament. “Barring any catastrophe, we’re ready and I fully anticipate being ready for March Madness,” he told LSP.

The CMO did not divulge which vendors are working with Saracen on the app, but he did say his firm’s short-term focus is on building up BetSaracen, not on identifying a partner for a second skin.

Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff is one of Arkansas’ three state casinos. Others include Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs and Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis. Oaklawn took Arkansas’s first retail sports bet in July 2019, with Saracen following in October 2019 and Southland in January 2020.