Arkansas: Mobile sports betting sees its best month yet in November as market takes off

Mobile sports betting is nothing but incipient in Arkansas. However, early market figures show the appetite for this form of wagering seems to be growing. Sportsbooks posted their best month yet in November with more than $30.5 million bet on sports, and handle-to-date reports show mobile is beating in-person sports gaming.

The Arkansas Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee approved mobile sports betting through the state’s three existing casinos in February 2022. Southland Casino Hotel in West Memphis launched its mobile betting app, Betly, in March. Saracen Casino Resort joined the market in May, with its Bet Saracen app; and Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort went live with Oaklawn Sports in September.

Thus far, Saracen has seen the most mobile success, handling more than $52 million in bets between May and November, according to the state Department of Finance & Administration. That is $42 million more than its on-site sports betting handle from January through November (sports betting on-site at Arkansas casinos had been approved by voters in 2018).

Southland, which had the state’s first mobile betting app, handled $39 million between March and November, $13 million more than its on-site handle for the year. And Oaklawn’s mobile sports handle was $5 million for its first three months of operations, while it handled $20 million onsite through November.  

As reported by Arkansas Business, Osi Imomoh, president and general manager of Southland, said: “We are very pleased with the performance of our Betly online and mobile sportsbook offerings. After about nine months under our belt, we are seeing positive growth – growth that is sustainable and doesn’t inflate the market with loss-leading promotions and bonuses that oftentimes come with the out-of-state national brands.”

The Arkansas mobile sports betting model is rather unique in the US, as it requires 51% of the net revenue to be reserved for the casino, much higher than the average national rater. National sportsbook giants such as FanDuel and DraftKings had argued against that rule before the Arkansas Legislature adopted it in February.

Carlton Saffa, chief market officer for Saracen, told the cited source that the state cut “its own path” in terms of regulating mobile sports betting, and that he believes the Arkansas scheme will prove to be “the right model.”

Saffa notes that the usual agreement between casinos and sportsbooks in other states has the sportsbooks keeping up to 90% of the revenue. That makes the casino a silent, minority partner, according to the executive.  

By keeping more money local, the Arkansas model will result in more jobs and more tax revenue for the state, Saffa argues. He also remarked there are three public policy reasons for gambling: jobs, taxes, and keeping revenue local.  

Arkansas legislature

“If you have created an environment where you have outsourced sports betting to a third party, very few jobs are created,” Saffa told the cited source. “If you’re giving away so much in promotions that the business is not sustainable, there are no taxes created.”

While early results are positive, Oaklawn General Manager Wayne Smith told Arkansas Business that he believes there is “room for growth” as mobile sports betting has only been introduced for four to six months in the state. “As we found with our Oaklawn Anywhere horse racing app, it will take two to four years for the state to hit its peak,” he stated.

But for now, operators have much to celebrate. November’s handle of more than $30.5 million made the month the most significant in the state’s history for sports betting thus far, reports Ozarks First. Previously, October had been the largest month, with $26.87 million in wagers. The state Department of Finance and Administration reports that more than $124 million has been wagered on sports since January 1.