Arkansas lawmakers file House bill to legalize online sports betting
Arkansas lawmakers filed a statewide bill Monday to legalize online sports betting. If approved, Arkansas casinos would be eligible to apply for an online sports betting license and provide up to three skins each for statewide bettors.
HB 1942, an Arkansas online sports betting bill sponsored by State Representative Lee Johnson (R-75), will have to move relatively quickly through the Arkansas House and Senate if it has any hope to approved. The final day of the state’s 2021 legislative session is Friday, April 30.
The authors of the bill noted the legalization of online sports betting would be advantageous for the state and its residents.
“The state would benefit substantially from authorizing online sports pools, to be conducted solely by casino licensees within the state and online sports pool operators with whom the casino licensees have a contractual agreement,” the authors wrote.
Arkansas online sports betting may bolster betting revenues
Arkansas legalized sports betting in November 2018 after a ballot initiative was approved by state voters that made casino gaming legal in the state. The initiative also approved sports betting operations to be held in the newly established casinos.
Oaklawn, located in Hot Springs, took the state’s first legal sports bets on July 1, 2019. There are currently three casinos in the state and all have working sportsbooks, while the construction of a permitted fourth casino has been delayed.
The bill would allow for state bettors to register an account for one of several potential mobile operating skins online or in person.
No limitations for collegiate wagering were included in the bill, meaning gamblers could wager on in-state college teams, including Razorbacks basketball and football games.
Under the terms of the bill, the Arkansas Racing Commission will implement rules and restrictions for the state’s online sports betting program.
The Arkansas online sports betting process explained
Interested casinos will submit an application and an application fee to the commission for an online sports betting license. Any applicant may submit a contemporaneous request to the commission for an interim license, which would allow the applicant to immediately act as a sports pool operator intermediary for up to 365 days pending the commission’s full review of the application.
Since accepting its first sports bets in 2019, Arkansas has seen roughly $55.8 million in sports betting handle, the lowest handle of any state accepting sports bet during that time period.
Neighboring Texas is also currently debating sports betting, as state lawmakers are hoping to include a constitutional amendment on the 2021 November ballot for state voters to determine the fate of legalized sports betting.