On the 22nd of February, the Arkansas Joint Budget Committee (JBC) approved mobile sports betting rules without a debate, paving the way for online sports betting’s launch in the state very soon. How soon? The rules included a 10-day waiting period before sportsbooks could launch online. That sets up a prospective launch on March 4.
That’s pretty fantastic timing because just a few days after this, one of the biggest sporting events in the US kicks off. March Madness begins on March 13 with selection Sunday and runs until April for a few weeks of college basketball madness. College sports betting will be legal for all players in Arkansas, meaning you’ll be able to download a sportsbook app and wager on March Madness games from your home.
It’s an exciting time for the Natural State, but everything is moving very quickly. Our experts have dived into the most recent news to explain what it means for you and your legal online sports betting.
Arkansas Legal Mobile Betting Rules
Arkansas residents have been waiting to place sports bets anywhere in the state for a long time. In November 2018, a vote was passed to legalize retail sports betting in AR. The first legal wagers were then taken in 2019, and the Arkansas Racing Commission was charged with regulating the new betting industry.
It has been a more difficult journey for online sports betting. Representative Johnson championed HB1942 which included regulations for online sports wagering in 2021. However, this died in the House. Lawmakers in Arkansas still saw the appeal of legalizing mobile betting, and over November and December 2021, the Arkansas Racing Commission posted its proposed rules for this new market.
These are the rules that the JBC passed without debate in February 2022 and what has set online sports betting on the path for a launch. Most of these rules line up with standards across the US, but there is one point of contention.
The law states that every sportsbook launched in the state has to partner with a land-based casino in AR. That’s pretty common, but the land-based casinos will take 51% of the revenue in Arkansas. National operators have contested this because sportsbook operators have to cover costs like the upkeep of technology and marketing.
That means some of the most popular brands in the US, like Caesars Sportsbook and DraftKings, may not launch straight away. Bettors in Arkansas shouldn’t worry. Each casino is allowed two online skins. Many of these casinos plan to launch sportsbooks with land-based casino branding for players to enjoy. That means there will be plenty of betting opportunities for March Madness and beyond.
Which Sportsbooks will Launch First?
There are currently three casinos operating in Arkansas, and each of these brands could launch online betting very soon. The most likely to be ready for the prospective March 4 launch is Saracen Casino Resort. Its Chief Marketing Officer, Carlton Saffa, said: “We will launch BetSaracen, an Arkansas born and bred, first-class mobile wagering app, before March Madness.”
The other two casinos in Arkansas have been much less committed to a launch in time for the NCAA basketball showcase event. Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort has announced plans for a mobile betting platform but indicated this would launch later in 2022. Southland Casino has equally not made any formal announcements, but its Betly Sportsbook is already in operation at its retail site.
Beyond this, Caesars owns the fourth casino being built in Arkansas, giving this national operator an easier way into the state than other sportsbooks. It looks like BetSaracen is your best bet for mobile sports wagering for March Madness.
March Madness Betting
March Madness is one of the most popular sports events in the US, and even with limitations on college wagering in some states, it has become a favorite of bettors across the country. In states where online sports betting is legal, players will be lining up to place moneylines, parlays, totals, and more on this massive tournament. And all of that is coming to Arkansas!
March is one of the biggest betting months outside of the NFL season in almost every state where you can place legal sports bets. For the most part, March Madness betting keeps up with NFL betting. For example, in March 2021, New Jersey handled $859,617,961 compared to October 2020, where it handled $803,096,172.
The NFL is the biggest betting sport in the US by a long shot, with odds integrated into broadcasts and sportsbooks sponsoring teams, stadiums, and leagues. The fact that March Madness betting can hold a candle to that shows how popular this wagering is.
Considering the success of the recent Super Bowl, which has already surpassed the 2021 handle without states like New York and Michigan declaring, experts are hopeful for March Madness 2022. The launch of online sports betting in Arkansas could help make this the biggest March Madness for betting ever!