Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson Backs Mobile Sports Wagering

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With mobile sports wagering taking root in the South, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) told Casino.org he could back mobile sports betting in his state.

Before making his statement at a luncheon event in Fayetteville this week, Hutchinson told Casino.org he would support mobile sports betting if measures including geofencing were established. Geofencing bars people outside an approved region from using computers and smartphones to place bets.

Hutchinson said;

“If they adopt the appropriate rules, I would be supportive of it.”

Arkansas is the location for three casinos, Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Saracen in Pine Bluff, and Southland in West Memphis. Although it is affiliated with a legal dispute, a fourth casino has been approved to operate in Russellville.

Wagering is legal inside Arkansas casinos on booths and at sportsbooks. However, the Arkansas Racing Commission will have to alter current rules to allow gamblers to use smartphones to place bets outside casino facilities. The commission oversees gaming in Arkansas.

An advocate representing DraftKings, MGM Resorts, and FanDuel has spoken to the commission regarding a rule change. Such companies will have to partner with a legal casino to run in the state, executives said.

Hutchinson stated it is vital for the commission to examine mobile sports wagering.

The Governor told Casino.org;

“I’m glad the Racing Commission will look at it.”

Regional competition

The need to remain competitive is a factor in examining mobile sports betting, Hutchinson stated. National-wide, most people place sports bets on mobile devices, including smartphones.

Two states neighboring Arkansas has already legalized mobile sports wagering.

In November 2020, wagers in Tennessee were allowed to use mobile devices to bet on live sporting events. Although Tennessee does have commercial casinos, the state’s sports-wagering ranked ninth in the nation at $144.5 million in July. The handle refers to the amount of money placed by wagers on athletic tournaments.

Sports betting is legal in Louisiana, which shares a border with Arkansas. However, it will not be operational until the Gaming Control Board determines the measures to regulate and tax the industry. That is anticipated to occur soon. Once it is established in Louisiana, sports betting will be allowed on-site on mobile devices and in casino sportsbooks.

Mississippi weighs up mobile betting

Mississippi, which also borders Arkansas, is hoped to take up mobile sports betting at the next legislative sitting in Jackson, the state capital.

The Mississippi Gaming Commission’s official director, Jay McDaniel, stated on a recent radio show that wagering is “popping up all around us.” After ten years as a deputy director, McDaniel took over from retired Official Director Allen Godfrey this month.

Sports betting is legal in Mississippi at sportsbooks inside casinos. However, off-site mobile sports wagering is illegal. Mississippi carries 26 commercial casinos.

McDaniel states the decision to legalize mobile sports wagering is in the hands of the legislature.

He said;

“If the legislature chooses to do that, we would quickly be ready to regulate it.”

Record pace

McDaniel noted Mississippi casinos are on pace for a megahit revenue year.

According to McDaniel, the state’s current casinos often generate about $2.1 billion a year.

He said:

“If we do what we did in 2019, which was a good year, we are on pace to hit the 2.4 to 2.5 billion marks, which we haven’t done in a long time.”

Mississippi casinos brought in $2.2 billion in 2019. A year later, with casinos closed for two months due to COVID-19 concerns, the casinos generated $1.8 billion in gross revenue.

Horse racing betting in Arkansas

The Arkansas Racing Commission oversees not only the sports wagering part but also horse racing in the state. Home to the Southland Casino Racing and Oaklawn Racing racetracks, the state-approved horse racing way before the now approved sports wagering.

For decades, the residents of Arkansas had nothing but horses to wager on, though they did not seem to complain in the slightest.