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Mobile sports wagering expected to add to Arkansas’ coffers

Arkansas residents can place mobile sports wagers through apps offered by the state’s casinos beginning Friday, and it is expected to add more money to the state’s general fund.

Figures from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) show $69 million was brought in from casinos last fiscal year. Through February of the current fiscal year, which ends in June, sports wagering has brought in $49.3 million, according to figures released Tuesday. Sports wagering has been allowed in the state since 2019.

Net gaming receipts from casinos are taxed at 13% on the first $150 million and 20% on anything exceeding $150 million plus $1, according to the DFA

Fifty-five percent of the money goes to the the Arkansas General Revenue Fund with anything over $31.2 million directed to highway projects. The Arkansas Racing Commission receives 17.5% for purses for live horse racing and greyhound racing. The county where the casino is located receives 8%, and 19.5% goes to the city or town. If the casino is not located in a city or town, the 19.5% goes to the county, according to DFA.

The state will “absolutely” see an increase in revenues with the addition of mobile sports wagering, said Carlton Saffa, chief marketing officer for Pine Bluff’s Saracen Casino Resort, which will be ready to launch its sports betting mobile app in a few days.

“We worked with a slate of best-in-class vendors, not just interstate, but internationally, to build our own app,” Saffa said in an email to The Center Square. “As I write this, the app is ready and merely awaiting the final approval from the app stores and payment processors.”

The new rules expand mobile sports betting to all Arkansans.

“While sports betting has been offered by Arkansas’ casinos since 2019, wagers were limited to on-site casino property,”  said Scott Hardin, a spokesperson with DFA. “A trip to one of the state’s three casinos was required to place a sports wager. The rule changes expanded the sports betting options to the full state via apps offered by the casinos. The sports betting apps are limited to the state’s three casinos.”

While Arkansas is not the only state to allow mobile sports wagering, it is the only state with a rule that gives 51% of the profits to the casinos. Companies cannot operate mobile sports wagering in the state without partnering with a casino, according to Hardin.

“This is ‘profit’ as it exists in gaming for tax purposes not necessarily a bottom line profit,” Saffa said. “It’s money in to (the) casino machines minus money out to winning bets minus promotional play. For example, if there was $2 million wagered and after we paid winners we and paid for promo play we had $100K left, then that’s where the tax comes from.”

The profit-sharing rule was approved by the Arkansas Racing Commission in December and again by state lawmakers last month. It could keep some national sports wagering bookmakers out of Arkansas and lead to new legislation, John Burris, a lobbyist for a coalition of national bookmakers, told

“The rule is going to need to be changed,” Burris said.

Other states allow casinos and bookmakers to make their own revenue-sharing deal.

“What I believe very strongly is if our gaming license, our good name, our assets, our reputation is utilized, for sports wagering, then of course we should have the majority position in it,” Saffa said. “And it’s such an important idea that it should not be left up to the casinos to maintain the majority positions, it should be a matter of public policy.”

This article was originally posted on Mobile sports wagering expected to add to Arkansas’ coffers

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