Market expansion

Arkansas debuts mobile sports betting with Southland Casino Racing's app Betly

2022-03-07
Reading time 2:43 min

Online sports betting is debuting in Arkansas through West Memphis gaming facility Southland Casino Racing. The venue has launched its Betly sportsbook product, the first available in the state, as two competing operators work on making their own apps available to the market.

The casino expects that becoming the first in Arkansas to launch mobile sports wagers will give it a head start in the race. Mobile sports gaming officially became legal last week, on March 4, after a proposed rule by the state’s Racing Commission allowing betting off casino premises secured final approval.

“The Betly online sportsbook will make it even easier for our patrons, all Arkansas residents and visitors to the state to wager on their favorite teams,” said David Wolf, president and general manager of Southland Casino Racing, according to KARK.com. “Many patrons are already using our Betly sportsbook kiosks at Southland, so the online sportsbook will be a familiar and convenient extension of our sports betting experience.”

Thus far, the Betly sportsbook is currently only available on PC and Mac browsers, while not yet available on mobile phones. The debut comes prior to March 13, the first day of March Madness. The NCAA basketball tournament launches with the first four games on March 15-16.

The launch comes amid an expansion of Southland Racing's facilities, which will see the revamped casino complex open by early Spring 2022.

Other venues in the state are also seeking to launch soon. Officials for Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff said the casino has been working on its BetSaracen product for over a year in order to meet the March Madness date.

Meanwhile, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort announced last month it was working “diligently” to have its mobile platform available to the public “within the next quarter or so.” The casino is taking a “more conservative approach,” as it waited for the Legislature for final approval before starting working with its vendor to get the platform ready.

Arkansas brought in about $1.2 million in tax revenue from in-person sports betting last year. According to state lawmakers, the new mobile system could lead those numbers to increase three-fold.

The betting expansion would also allow Arkansas to catch up with regional rivals, according to Bookies.com. Tennessee greenlighted mobile sports wagering in 2020, while Louisiana launched on January 28. Meanwhile, neighboring Mississippi allows mobile sports betting on casino property, although a series of bills are attempting to expand the practice statewide.

While casinos in the Natural State have the ability to partner with third-party betting platforms such as market giants FanDuel or DraftKings, Arkansans are unlikely to see apps from these brands, at least in the immediate future

This is due to a provision in the new rule that grants Arkansas casinos more than half of the mobile sports betting proceeds when partnering with these operators. The 51% rate is well above the average 5%-15% share with local casinos in the rest of the country, making it less attractive for heavyweight operators to enter the market.

The margin for the operator is really very small, so if you were cutting into that margin even more so from a market share perspective and a profit share it just creates new considerations,” Doug Terfehr with Maximbet, a third-party platform considering doing business in Arkansas, told KNWA.

Bookmarkers opposing the rule have suggested it conflicted with the federal commerce clause, while casino lawyers argue the clause doesn’t apply. Last month, Brian Bowen, chief deputy of the attorney general’s office, said the rule “can be defended” should there be a legal challenge to it.

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