Arkansas is on the cusp of legalizing mobile sports betting after a state legislative subcommittee approved a proposed state rule on the matter on Thursday.
According to Gambling.com, Arkansas’ Joint Budget Administrative Rule Review Subcommittee approved the state’s mobile sports-betting rule following a two-day discussion.
The rule now goes to the Natural State’s full Joint Budget Committee for final consideration, which could take place next week. The earliest date on which the committee can take up a vote is February 22.
Arkansas’ mobile wagering rule includes a unique condition granting local casinos 51% of profits when partnering with online sportsbooks, who usually share around 5-15%.
If this measure is approved, Arkansas would be the only US state with a mobile sports betting profit-sharing arrangement established by a government rule.
Back in December, the Arkansas Racing Commission, which regulates all legal gaming in the state, unanimously approved a rule change to allow mobile sports wagering away from casino property.
The state is home to three casinos – Southland Casino and Racing in West Memphis, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs, and Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff – with a fourth casino approved to be built in Pope County.
Representatives from national online sportsbooks, including DraftKings and FanDuel, have spoken out against the rule requiring them to give casinos 51% of profits when partnering on a mobile app, called ‘skins’.
Speaking at Wednesday’s subcommittee hearing, John Burris, a former Arkansas lawmaker representing the sportsbooks, noted the 51% mandate violates the US Constitution commerce clause by discriminating against out-of-state businesses.
Unless they partner with a casino, online sportsbooks will not be able to operate in Arkansas. Each casino is allowed two skins, which they can use under their brand and partner with an out-of-state bookmaker. Casinos don’t have to put both skins in use either.
Carlton Saffa, Chief Marketing Officer at Saracen Casino Resort, said at Wednesday’s subcommittee that the 51% rule doesn’t restrict any national online sportsbook from operating in the Natural State, stating: “There is no discrimination, there is no mention of geography in this rule.”
If the Arkansas Joint Budget Committee approves the rule next week, mobile sports betting could be live in the state in time for the start of the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament.