When Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort general manager Wayne Smith placed the first legal Arkansas sports wager in July 2019, he experienced similar feelings other bettors have when placing bets.
It's exciting for bettors to legally place a sports wager at a local casino. It's also frustrating to know that bettors in other states (such as New Jersey or Pennsylvania) have the better option of placing bets online via mobile sportsbooks.
Arkansas had only one retail location last summer, but now has three. According to the latest monthly report by the Arkansas Racing Commission, those three sportsbooks combined for a January 2020 total handle of $2.58 million. The payout was $2.33 million over that timeframe and the total revenue for the month was $254,811.
When Smith placed that first bet on the Dallas Cowboys (a $5 wager for them to beat the New York Giants), he did so knowing Oaklawn in Hot Springs had potential to be the sports betting capital of Arkansas.
Oaklawn wasn't just the only sportsbook in town - it was the only one in the state.
Nearly half a year later and Oaklawn remains the favorite choice among bettors. Oaklawn's $1.94 million handle made up more than 83% of the total betting action in Arkansas
The second-place finisher was Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff at $495,602, which began taking bets in October 2019.
The state's newest betting option, Southland Casino in West Memphis, reported $148,551 during its first month.
While bettors hope to have a fourth option in Pope County soon, delays and controversy continue to mire that project.
The Arkansas sports betting scene began in July 2019. Oaklawn continues its firm grip on the overall Arkansas market and there's no doubt the state could benefit by adding some kind of mobile betting. Smith, whose Cowboy's bet in early September paid off, repeatedly has said he wants the Arkansas Racing Commission to add mobile betting.
For now it appears Arkansas bettors are stuck with the same option Smith had when placing last year's summer bet. Perhaps bettors no longer have to drive as far to place bets, now that two more sportsbooks in the state are open.
But the feelings Smith and other bettors in Arkansas experience when placing bets are likely to remain for some time. It's exciting to legally place bets on sports but it's frustrating not to be able to do it online.