Sports Betting Legalized in Arkansas with Ballot Measure

Arkansas is set to become the next state with legal sports betting after the public approved a ballot measure seeking to authorize four casinos with sports betting across the state.

The measure, which appeared as Issue 4 on yesterday’s ballot, proposed an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution allowing Southland racetrack and Oaklawn racetrack to expand into “casino gaming,” which as defined by the measure includes sports betting.

Additionally, the measure sought to authorize a new casino in Pope County and another in Jefferson County. Southland and Oaklawn are to receive gambling licenses automatically, while the two yet-to-be-constructed casinos will have to apply for licenses at a fee not to exceed $250,000.

Issue 4 passed by a comfortable margin with 54% of voters in favor and 46% against. With this vote, Arkansas has nearly everything in place to join the ranks of states with legal sports betting.

What’s Next for Arkansas Sports Betting?

Sports betting has been legalized in Arkansas, but several things still need to happen before the first wagers are actually booked.

First, the Arkansas Racing Commission must establish rules and regulations governing gambling and sports betting. Issue 4 tasked the commission with adopting these rules and has given the commission 120 days to get everything in order. Just some of the topics the commission needs to address include:

  • The application and vetting process for the two remaining casino licenses
  • How casino licenses are to be renewed
  • Oversight requirements for casinos
  • Recordkeeping requirements for casinos
  • Procedures for terminating licenses in the event any licensees violate the state’s gambling or sports betting rules
  • Penalties for violations and a process for appealing those penalties
  • Procedures for inspecting and investigating licensees
  • Responsibilities of casino licensees

The commission will take care of most of the details related to sports betting, but the measure did include a few overarching rules:

  • Casinos to be taxed 13% on the first $150,000,000 of net gaming receipts
  • Casinos to be taxed 20% on net gaming receipts in excess of $150,000,001
  • Minimum age of 21 to play
  • Arkansas Racing Commission to begin accepting applications for the two remaining casino licenses no later than June 1, 2019

Next, the casinos need to actually get up and running so they can successfully offer their products to patrons. Casinos will have to not only wait to see the final regulations enacted by the commission, but also get their own internal policies, technology and employees up to speed.

Southland Racing & Gaming in West Memphis and Oaklawn Racing & Gaming in Hot Springs will likely be the first two locations to offer sports betting in Arkansas. Both tracks have some experience in casino gaming and were granted automatic approval by the passage of Issue 4.

We know the geographic location of the other two casinos, but not who will operate them. One casino is to be located in Pope County within two miles of Russellville and the other is to be located in Jefferson County within two miles of Pine Bluff.