Arkansas is now the 9th state in the US to offer sports betting post PASPA. Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort (known to the horse racing zeitgeist as Oaklawn Park) unveiled their new race and sports book on Monday and are now open for business. Oaklawn General Manager Wayne Smith placed the first bet at the property, wagering $5 on the Dallas Cowboys -7.5 over the New York Giants on September 8 though I would have advised him to take the points getting the 1/2 on a key number like 7.
Oaklawn is in Hot Springs, Arkansas which for much of the 20th Century was a hotbed for gambling with dozens of brick and mortar casinos and sportsbooks in operation. Although gambling (with the exception of horse racing) was illegal in Arkansas during that time the casinos in Hot Springs operated with little to no interference from state and local politicians or law enforcement. Until the early 1960’s, the gaming revenue in Hot Springs rivaled that of Las Vegas. Unfortunately, the gambling in Hot Springs wouldn’t survive until the 1970s. It fell victim to an onslaught from the symbiotic forces of fundamentalist religious nuts and meddlesome politicians.
The voters of Arkansas approved a referendum in 2018 that amended the state’s constitution to allow sports betting. Casinos were authorized in four counties with the properties allowed to offer a full range of games including sports betting. Two ‘automatic’ licenses were granted to Oaklawn and to the Southland Greyhound track in West Memphis, Arkansas just over the border from Memphis, Tennessee. There are two more licenses to be awarded for gaming properties in Pope County and Jefferson County. It looks like the Oaklawn and Southland licenses were awarded without any additional fee but the two new licenses will require a fee ‘not to exceed $250,000’. Gaming revenues will be taxed at 13% for the first $150 million in net casino receipts and 20% on net receipts above $150 million. Oversight is provided by the Arkansas Racing Commission.
Oaklawn’s sports betting is powered by the Churchill Downs owned BetAmerica platform with risk management provided by SBTech. Unfortunately, the Arkansas regulatory framework does not currently allow off premise wagering which means that bettors in most of the state are out of luck. Oaklawn is reportedly working on an ‘on premise’ mobile platform. Oaklawn will likely have the only sports betting in the state for awhile–things are a mess at Southland and the other two approved gaming are still in the planning stages.
CASINO INSIDER is in the process of evaluating the Arkansas sports betting regulations so look for more coverage in the coming weeks. With nonexistent competition and no mobile wagering don’t expect Arkansas to rank particularly well.