Arkansas sports betting starts online, but big companies may stay away

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Posted: March 7, 2022, 7:55 a.m.

Last update: March 7, 2022, 7:55 a.m.

Arkansas has officially joined 20 other states, plus DC, in launching legal online sports betting.

Sports Betting Arkansas Southland Betly
A Southland Casino customer places a sports bet using a Betly Sports kiosk in February 2020. The first legal mobile sports bet in Arkansas was recently placed on the Betly website. (Picture: The commercial appeal)

The Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC) approved its mobile sports betting regulations at the end of December. Just over two months later, Southland Casino in West Memphis was the first to launch its regulated online sportsbook.

Southland internet bookmaker Betly Sports made its debut over the weekend. The platform is currently only accessible by visiting the casino’s website. Betly apps for iPhone and Android devices are expected to go live in the coming days.

Southland developed its standalone sports betting product with Game1, a Belgium-based iGaming company that provides turnkey solutions for the emerging tech space. Southland is owned and operated by Delaware North. In addition to Arkansas, Delaware North owns and/or operates gambling properties in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, New York, Ohio and West Virginia.

Betly Sports is running a promotion giving new customers $250 in free bets.

DraftKings and FanDuel are unlikely to enter

The other two Arkansas casinos – Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff and Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs – plan to launch their online sportsbooks in the coming days. But like Southland, these two casinos are developing their own standalone mobile sports betting platforms instead of partnering with experienced operators like DraftKings and FanDuel.

Arkansas mobile sports betting rules require the land-based casino to retain a minimum of 51% of the gross gaming revenue (GGR) generated from its online sports betting operations. This is the first time that gaming regulators in a US state have mandated the distribution of online sports betting GGR between the casino and the online sports betting operator.

The CRA received harsh criticism of the revenue rule from the sports betting industry during its regulatory process for internet sports betting. But the commission nevertheless included the revenue-sharing mandate with its terms of governance.

The legislation is very unique in Arkansas because it presents operators with many other considerations,” said Doug Terfehr of Maximbet. KNWA in Fayetteville. Terfehr plans to partner with one of three casinos to offer online sports betting in the state.

“The margin for the trader is really, really small, so if you reduce that margin even further from a market share and profit share perspective, it just creates new considerations,” Terfehr explained.

Ideal for now

Arkansans are happy to be able to bet legally both in person and online. The liberalization of play comes just before March Madness, the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament which is one of the busiest times of the year for bettors.

Arkansas is ranked No. 14 in the nation in the latest AP Top 25 poll. ESPN Tournament predictor “Bracketology” currently has the Razorbacks as the four seeds.

As for taxes, Arkansas regulations will lump a casino’s sports betting revenue into its total GGR. This sum is subject to a 13% tax on the first $150 million of GGR. The rate then increases to 20%.

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