With mobile sports betting taking hold in the South, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) told Casino.org he could support mobile wagering in his state.
Before speaking at a luncheon event in Fayetteville this week, Hutchinson told Casino.org he would be in favor of mobile wagering if rules such as geofencing are put in place. Geofencing blocks people outside an approved area from using smartphones or computers to place bets.
If they adopt the appropriate rules, I would be supportive of it,” Hutchinson said.
Arkansas is home to three casinos — Southland in West Memphis, Oaklawn in Hot Springs, and Saracen in Pine Bluff. A fourth casino has been licensed to operate in Russellville but is tied up in a legal dispute.
Sports betting is legal inside Arkansas casinos on kiosks and at sportsbooks. The Arkansas Racing Commission would have to change current rules to allow bettors to use smartphones to place wagers off casino grounds. The commission regulates gaming in Arkansas.
A lobbyist representing FanDuel, DraftKings, and MGM Resorts has approached the commission about a rule change. Companies such as these would have to partner with a legal casino to operate in the state, officials said.
Hutchinson said it is appropriate for the commission to explore mobile sports betting.
“I’m glad the Racing Commission will look at it,” the governor told Casino.org.
The need to remain competitive is a factor in exploring mobile sports betting, Hutchinson said. Nationwide, most sports bets are placed on mobile devices such as smartphones.
Two states bordering Arkansas have already legalized mobile sports betting.
In November 2020, bettors in Tennessee were allowed to begin using mobile devices to wager on live sporting events. Although Tennessee doesn’t have commercial casinos, the state’s sports-betting handle in July ranked ninth in the nation, at $144.5 million. The “handle” is the amount of money bettors wager on athletic competitions.
After Tennessee authorized mobile wagering, the sports-betting handle at Arkansas’ Southland Casino Racing dropped by millions of dollars. Southland is across the Mississippi River from its largest market, Memphis, Tennessee.
In Louisiana, which shares a border with Arkansas, sports betting is legal. It will not be operational, however, until the Gaming Control Board finalizes the rules to regulate and tax the industry. That is expected to happen soon. Once it’s up and running in Louisiana, sports betting will be allowed on-site in casino sportsbooks and on mobile devices.
Mississippi Mulls Mobile
Mississippi, which also borders Arkansas, is expected to take up mobile sports betting at the next legislative session in Jackson, the state capital.
Jay McDaniel, the Mississippi Gaming Commission’s executive director, noted on a recent radio show that sports betting is “kind of popping up all around us.” After a decade as deputy director, McDaniel took over this month from retired Executive Director Allen Godfrey.
Sports wagering is legal in Mississippi at sportsbooks inside casinos. Off-site mobile sports betting is illegal. Mississippi is home to 26 commercial casinos.
McDaniel said the decision to legalize mobile sports betting is “in the hands of the Legislature.”
“If the Legislature chooses to do that, we would quickly be ready to regulate it,” he said.