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Arkansas regulators to vote on mobile betting this Thursday

Mobile sportsbooks

Arkansas bettors could have legal sportsbook apps early next year if the state regulatory body votes in favor of amending the state’s sports wagering laws this week.

The Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC), which regulates gambling in the Natural State, is meeting on Thursday to vote on a proposed rule change that could result in the legalization of mobile betting statewide. The state introduced regulated sportsbooks following a voter referendum in 2018, but the market is currently limited to in-person betting at three licensed casinos.

If the Commission votes in favor of the amendment, the rule change will be published online for a period of 30 days to allow for the public to weigh in on the proposal. It will then advance to the joint legislative Rules Committee for further discussion and a vote before proceeding to Governor Asa Hutchinson’s office for final approval.

Hutchinson is said to be in favor of expanding sports betting outside of the state’s casinos. According to the Governor, authorizing online sportsbooks would put Arkansas in a position to compete with neighboring states like Tennessee and Louisiana, where statewide mobile betting is legal. However, the Governor maintains that the ARC must come up with rules that will ensure that operators implement safeguards like geofencing.

Saracen Casino supports legalizing mobile wagering

As the ARC prepares to vote on the proposed rule change on Thursday, the Chief Marketing Officer at Saracen Casino, Carlton Saffa, has come out in support of expanding the Arkansas sports betting market to include mobile sportsbooks.

Commenting on the subject, Saffa said that allowing mobile sportsbooks would make it easier for Arkansas to place sports wagers since they wouldn’t have to visit physical casinos. He also noted that the state’s sports betting demographic mostly comprises young people who are more likely to use mobile devices to place wagers, adding that they are transacting with offshore bookies due to lack of legal options.

Besides, Saffa says that there is demand for the market and Arkansans are eager to have legal sportsbook apps.

“Our patrons wanted crab legs on our buffet, so we made it happen. And our patrons want to bet on sports on their phones, so we are hopeful that the state would allow that to happen. This has long been something that we are regularly asked about,” said Saffa.

The Quapaw Nation-owned Saracen Casino in Pine Bluff is one of three venues licensed to offer retail sports wagering in Arkansas. The other two are Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs and Southland Casino in West Memphis.

Cherokee Nation gets green light to build Pope County casino

The Cherokee Nation has been authorized to build a new, fourth casino in Pope County.

In a meeting held on Friday, the Arkansas Racing Commission voted 3-2 to rescind the license previously awarded to Gulfside Casino Partnership of Mississippi. The regulator also agreed to re-issue the permit to the Cherokee Nation, who intend to put a gaming facility northwest of Arkansas capital Little Rock through a partnership with Legends Resort & Casino LLC.

The development of the casino was approved by Arkansans in the 2018 referendum, but its construction was delayed by legal battles between Gulfside and the Cherokee Nation.

The tribe, in its lawsuit against Gulfside, argued that it was illegal for Gulfside to put up a temporary casino in Russellville as it continued building a larger gaming facility since the smaller establishment was not included in its plan. The Cherokee Nation also contended that its rival’s blueprint was not backed by a sitting Pope County judge. The legal tussle ended in October this year after the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cherokee Nation Businesses.

Following the Racing Commission’s vote on Friday, the regulator will refund Gulfside’s permit fee of $250,000 and award the license to the tribe by close of business on Monday. The Cherokee Nation will also be required to pay the $250,000 license fee for the casino.

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