Arkansas Lawmaker Introduces Sports Betting Bill Under The Wire

With just days left in the Arkansas State Legislature 2021 term, state Rep. Lee Johnson (R) introduced a bill on Monday to bring sports betting to the Razorback State. 

House Bill 1492 would legalize sports betting for professional and college athletics. The bill confines sports betting within state lines. The bill calls for the Arkansas Racing Commission to administer the program and allow for up to 12 sportsbooks — three for each of the currently approved casinos in the state.

The House Rules Committee is scheduled to take up the measure on Wednesday.

State Of Play

In 2018 Arkansas voters approved a measure allowing for four brick-and-mortar casinos in the state. Each of these casinos was allowed to run its own sportsbooks on its premises. As of now, three are fully up and running: Oaklawn, the Saracen Resort, and the Southland Casino

The fourth casino, slated for Pope County, has been held up due to procedural hurdles. 

Arkansas is the latest in a series of states that are exploring, and in the cases of New York and Arizona, passing, sports betting legislation this year. But the session ends on April 30, leaving little time for Johnson’s bill to advance. 

Unlike Ohio, which is also hoping to address the issue this year, Arkansas does not have many border states that allow sports betting. Tennessee to the northeast does, and Louisiana to the south has limited options. Texas, its southwest neighbor, is considering expanding its options, but like Arkansas is up against a tight deadline.

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