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Arkansas Online Sports Betting Can Launch March 4, But Will Sportsbook Apps Be Ready?

Robert Linnehan

by Robert Linnehan in Sports Betting News

Updated Mar 2, 2022 · 4:01 PM PST

Arkansas forward Connor Vanover shooting a free throw
Arkansas forward Connor Vanover (23) shoots a free throw against Gardner-Webb during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday Nov. 13, 2021, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
  • Arkansas online sports betting can legally launch Friday, March 4, 2022
  • At least one Arkansas casino says its sportsbook app is completed
  • It’s likely no major sportsbook operators will be involved in the early launch

Arkansas online sports betting can legally launch on Friday, March 4, just 10 days after being approved by a state a joint budget committee, but will any sportsbook apps be ready after such a quick turnaround?

The Arkansas Joint Budget Committee accepted a subcommittee report to allow online sports betting on Tuesday, Feb. 22. By law, online sports betting had to wait for a 10-day filing period with the Secretary of State before it could legally launch. The 10-day time period will be up this Friday, March 4, and at least one state casino hopes to be ready to launch its own sportsbook app as close to the date as possible.

Arkansas Casinos Will Use Own Sports Betting Apps

Saracen Casino in Pine Bluff announced on Feb. 22 it would launch its own sports betting app, BetSaracen, prior to the start of the NCAA March Madness tournament, which begins on Tuesday, March 15.

Today, Carlton Saffa, chief marketing officer of Saracen Casino, told Sports Betting Dime that the BetSaracen sportsbook app has been completed and is awaiting final authorization from Google and Apple before  the app can go live. While the launch date is unknown, Saffa said it would be before the start of the NCAA March Madness tournament.

“On Saracen’s end we’re ready. Our team has been at work on this for over a year and we’re excited to have played a role in pushing for the legalization of mobile and proud that we’ll soon launch. The specific launch date is on the app stores’ timelines and payment processors, and this work on their end could not begin until after the state of Arkansas authorized mobile gaming. I am confident we will be live before the NCAA tournament,” he told Sports Betting Dime.

Scott Hardin, a spokesperson for the Arkansas Racing Commission, told Sports Betting Dime that the other two state casinos approved for online sports betting, Southland Casino and Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, would both use own sportsbooks apps and were in different stages of development.

Arkansas Online Sports Betting 51% Profit Rule

Arkansas differs greatly from other states that have legalized online sports betting through a 51% revenue split rule between state casinos and potential sportsbook operating partners. The 51% rule requires Arkansas casinos to keep at least 51% of all online sports betting profits if partnered with an online sportsbook operator. Online sportsbooks typically keep between 85% to 95% of revenue in partnerships with casinos in other states.

Representatives for several online sportsbook companies, including DraftKings and FanDuel, spoke during the subcommittee hearing and claimed the 51% rule violated the federal Commerce Clause by discriminating against out-of-state vendors.

The rule will likely initially keep the large online sportsbook companies out of the state, which is why the Arkansas casinos are relying on their own designed sportsbook apps.

Retail sports betting has been legal in Arkansas since its approval in November 2018 following a statewide ballot initiative. A total of $33 million was bet on sports in the state’s three casinos in 2020. The total doubled to $68 million in 2021. Overall, more than $120 million has been legally wagered on sports since Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort accepted the first sports bet in 2019.

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