In Arkansas, the landscape of online wagering has been similar to most American states, slow but with a steady progression towards complete legalization. Earlier this year, in February 2022, the Arkansas Racing Commission gave the thumbs up to mobile sports betting for casinos operating through the approval of the Arkansas Legislature Joint Budget Committee.
The Joint Budget Committee approved the rule in light of the recommendations made by the Administrative Rule Review Subcommittee. Said rule would give mobile sports wagering in Arkansas the go-ahead, conveniently in time for the March Madness NCAA basketball tournament.
"Casinos with sports betting apps ready may launch at that time," said Scott Hardin, the state's Department of Finance Administrator. "We anticipate at least one of the state's three casinos will have an app launched before March 13, the first day of March Madness [when the selection of the teams in the tournament is announced]."
In Arkansas, three casinos run their operations: Saracen Casino Resort, Southland Casino, and Oaklawn Racing Casino. In November 2021, a newly established brand (Legends Resort) was awarded a license to construct a business in Arkansas.
BetSaracen, a sports wagering app under development at Saracen Casino Resort, has been in development for over a year. "We’ve been working on BetSaracen for a year, so today’s vote is exciting for Arkansas and for us.” Commented Carlton Saffa, the chief marketing officer at Saracen Casino Resort. “We will launch BetSaracen, a first-class, Arkansas born and bred mobile wagering app.”.
Delays on the start date of accepting mobile sports bets inside Arkansas have been due to payment processors and app store compliance;. At the same time, many companies weren’t available for March Madness; they’re up and running today.
Overall, it’s a significant benefit for the state. A spokeswoman for Southland Casino Racing said everyone is delighted with the approval of the proposed sports betting rules, as the proceeds have been ensured to benefit the state.
“This will allow Southland to build on our significant economic and community investments in West Memphis and the state, including our $250 million expansion opening this year,” Natalie Carlson said. “We’re looking forward to offering mobile sports wagering across Arkansas in the coming weeks through our Betly app, which will make it even easier for Southland patrons and others in the state to begin wagering on their favorite teams.
“Many patrons are already using the Betly sportsbooks kiosks at Southland,” she continued. “The downloadable app will be a familiar extension of our sports betting experience and allow them to continue to play easily at home and elsewhere in the state.”
In agreement, the general manager at Oaklawn Racing Casino, Wayne Smith, is also excited about the addition of mobile sports wagering in Arkansas.
“Oaklawn will work diligently to have our mobile platform to the public within the next quarter or so,” Smith said. “We took a more conservative approach and waited for the racing commission and the Legislature to give their approval before we started working with our vendor GAN to get our mobile platform ready.
“Our mobile platform will mirror the same wagering menu Oaklawn offers its guests on the property, which rival any national brand's menu out today. Oaklawn sports will be the brand Arkansans trust just like we are today with Oaklawn anywhere,” Smith added.
Betting Apps Competition in Arkansas
One of the first companies to enter the state was BetMGM Arkansas sportsbooks; as an international brand that’s comfortably established within countless provinces, it’s no surprise that local casinos and their marketing teams are scared of the competition.
In the nearby state of Tennessee, BetMGM is one of the most popular sportsbooks when making this judgment on the betting handle. With incredible rewards programs that are notably linked to MGM Resorts – where customers can cash benefits at one of many MGM hotels/establishments – they’re a daunting company to go up against.
However, Betly Sportsbook managed to launch its iOS sports betting app last week.
Betly was readily available for March Madness, but this was limited to web browsers. Partnered with Southland Casino Racing, the iOS app was highly anticipated and is additionally available to Android users by directly downloading it from Betly.com
“It took a little time to work through the respective app store processes, but now the Betly.com app is readily available for download, so everyone in Arkansas who wants to can have fun with the ongoing pro basketball playoffs and other wagering opportunities,” said the vice president of marketing for Delaware North’s gaming division, Luisa Woods.
What about BetSaracen?
Despite promises made, promises haven’t been delivered…yet. Arkansas bettors eagerly await the arrival of BetSaracen, which was expected to be available before March Madness.
Saracen Casino hasn’t released a web browser version of its betting platform, but they have been active on social media, ultimately causing frustration for its followers. One Twitter post displayed an image of the BetSaracen logo at the Arkansas State football spring game.
One customer replied, “Right net to the ad for ‘Bigfoot fur groomers’ since both don’t exist,” and another said, “All the marketing and zero use of the product!”.
The frustration is warranted as Arkansas locals are presented with a minimal choice, and BetSaracen consistently promoted its launch during February and March. However, after the launch was postponed and we’re now in May, Saracen Casino executive and the BetSaracen social accounts have gone awfully quiet without an update in sight.
Betly is still the only local legal online sports betting option in Arkansas as BetSaracen customers deal with false promises. Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort gave a launch date for their online sports betting platform, expected in the third quarter of 2022.