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Arkansas Online Sports Betting Approved, May Launch Before March Madness

Robert Linnehan

by Robert Linnehan in Sports Betting News

Updated Feb 22, 2022 · 8:07 AM PST

Arkansas guard Moses Moody
Arkansas guard Moses Moody (5) against Missouri during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Fayetteville, Ark. Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
  • An Arkansas Joint Budget Committee approved online sports betting this morning 
  • Online sports betting can launch after 10-day filing period with Secretary of State
  • Online sports betting includes controversial 51% profit requirement for state casinos

Arkansas online sports betting can potentially launch prior to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in March after receiving approval today from a joint budget committee.

The Arkansas Joint Budget Committee accepted a subcommittee report to allow online sports betting this morning. Online sports betting can now launch after a 10-day filing period with the Secretary of State, which would be in time for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament beginning March 15.

Potential Early March Launch

Last week, the Arkansas Joint Budget Administrative Rule Review Subcommittee approved online sports betting in Arkansas after a two-day discussion debating the legality of a controversial 51% profit sharing rule.

The 51% rule was included in the final sports betting rules and it will require Arkansas casinos to keep at least 51% of all online sports betting profits if partnered with an online sportsbook operator. Several national online sportsbook operators vigorously oppose the profit sharing rule and believe it may violate federal law.

Each brick-and-mortar casino in the state will be able to offer online sports betting. Arkansas has a total of three casinos:

  • Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort
  • Saracen Casino Resort
  • Southland Casino and Racing

Saracen Casino Resort has already announced it will launch its own online sports betting app, “Bet Saracen”, when Arkansas online sports betting can officially begin.

A fourth casino has been approved in Pope County but has not yet begun construction.

Arkansas Online Sports Betting 51% Profit Rule

Each casino, if they choose, can partner with up to two online sportsbooks to use their technology and their operating platforms, called “skins.” However, Arkansas online sports betting includes a controversial clause that requires state casinos to keep at least 51% of online sports betting profits. National online sportsbooks usually keep between 85% to 95% of profits when partnered with a casino.

The clause was a point of contention for online sportsbooks after it was included in the initial online sports betting plans approved the Arkansas Racing Commission in late December. Representatives for several online sportsbook companies, including DraftKings and FanDuel, spoke during last week’s subcommittee hearing and claimed the 51% rule violated the federal Commerce Clause by discriminating against out-of-state vendors.

Despite the protestations, Arkansas Attorney General Chief of Staff Brian Bowen said the attorney general’s office believes the 51% profit rule can be defended if challenged in a court of law.

It is yet to be seen if any partnerships between Arkansas casinos and online sportsbook companies will exist with the 51% rule, or if the national sportsbook operators will challenge the rule in court.

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