Arkansas Casinos Get Sports-Betting Bounce With Football Underway

Posted on: October 13, 2021, 02:24h. 

Last updated on: October 13, 2021, 07:18h.

The sportsbooks at Arkansas’ three commercial casinos saw large increases in the amount of money wagered on live athletic events in September.

Raheim Sanders
Arkansas running back Raheim Sanders attempts to elude a face-mask-grabbing Ole Miss tackler during an Oct. 9 SEC game in Oxford, Miss. Ole Miss won 52-51. (Image: Bleacher Report)

The largest increase in the sportsbook handle came at Oaklawn Racing Resort, according to the Arkansas Racing Commission. The “handle” is the amount of money bettors wager on sporting events.

In September, the sportsbook at Oaklawn, a resort and horse track in Hot Springs, collected more than $2.85 million in bets. That is an increase of $1.85 million from August. After the winning bettors were paid off, Oaklawn made $256,528 at the casino sportsbook in September, compared to $90,272 one month earlier.

The boom in sports betting coincided with the fall start of collegiate and professional football. In the US, the NFL is traditionally the most widely bet sport.

In states such as Arkansas, where college football is popular, NCAA games attract a lot of fan attention and heavy wagering. 

Enthusiasm for college football in Arkansas has been high this fall. The University of Arkansas Razorbacks jumped off to a fast start this year, beating the University of Texas and SEC West rival Texas A&M. These wins helped propel the Razorbacks to a No. 17 ranking in this week’s Associated Press poll.

Bridge Repair Helps Southland 

Also in September, Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis saw more sports-book wagering than during the previous month.

The casino and dog track had a September sportsbook handle of $2.79 million, or $1.48 million more than in August. After winners were paid, the sportsbook made $282,968 in September, compared to $101,208 one month earlier.

In addition to football betting, Southland has benefited from the reopening in late July and early August of both lanes of the Interstate 40 bridge. That span connects West Memphis to the larger Memphis, Tennessee, metropolitan area. The bridge had been closed since May for repairs to a primary support beam.

In Pine Bluff, Saracen Casino Resort had a $1.36 million sportsbook handle is September. That figure was $782,281 higher than the previous month’s total. The sportsbook won $269,908 in September, compared to $118,929 in August. Pine Bluff is south of centrally located Little Rock, the capital city.

With table games and slot machines added to the sportsbook totals, the three casinos combined won $1.63 million more in September than in August. Southland was down slightly for the month overall, while the other two casinos had a winning month.

Louisiana Wagering Includes Mobile

This comes as Arkansas’ neighbor to the south, Louisiana, is expected to kick off sports betting within weeks. The betting will go live in the 55 of 64 parishes that approved it in last year’s statewide election.

Most commercial casinos in Louisiana have applied for licenses to operate on-site sportsbooks. Once the Louisiana Gaming Control Board approves those licenses, the sportsbooks will be operational.

A casino on tribal land in Louisiana already is taking in-person sports bets. Tribal casinos are not regulated by the Gaming Control Board and do not pay state taxes. 

Under the new law, bettors in Louisiana also will be allowed to use their smartphones in wagering on sporting events. Off-site smartphone betting is not legal in Arkansas.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) recently told he would be supportive of smartphone betting if the Racing Commission puts rules, such as geofencing, in place.