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Football season back as sports betting in full swing for Arkansas

Sports betting, only two months young in Arkansas, is adding an extra spark to the gaming world. Now, casinos are anticipating what football season will bring.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Football season in Arkansas may look a little different this year, now that sports betting is alive and well in the natural state.

The excitement of putting money down on your favorite team is already in full swing at Oaklawn Casino in Hot Springs. 

Zack Gillham, Oaklawn sports betting manager, said it's adding an extra spark to the gaming world. 

"It's everything we anticipated, it's been going really well and we just expect it to continue to grow," he said. 

Gillham said Arkansas is one of the first dozen to legalize this new way to get fans involved in the game. 

"It's just a big pool, it's entertainment. Anyone will tell you when you have money on a game it's more entertaining than if you don't," he said. 

Gillham said visitors from all over are trickling in to place their bets. 

"We've had people coming from out of state: Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma. As well as, a lot of locals have been waiting for 30 plus years to wage on sports," he said. 

The wait is over, now that NCAA football has kicked off, and Gillham said last weekend was a success. 

"The room was packed all day, there were lines when we opened, the kiosk were active all day," he said. 

Since fall means football, Gillham said Oaklawn added 8 more sports betting kiosks in the midst of all their other slot machines, so anyone can place their bets wherever they may be in the casino.

"We actually have 20 kiosks now to take care of the guests," he said. 

These easy-to-use machines are something Ryan Brown said makes Oaklawn's sportsbook more sophisticated. 

"That is something that the surrounding states that have sports betting, specifically Mississippi, they don't offer," he said. 

Brown said he and his friends used to travel to Tunica to place their bet. Now, the convenience at Oaklawn is changing the game.

"I think it'll give me an excuse to swoop in, place a bet when I wouldn't be coming into Oaklawn this time of year," he said. 

Brown, a usual gambler during horse racing, is now using his money to root for his favorite teams.

"Obviously got to bet the Razorbacks for tomorrow and I'm a Cowboys fan, so had to put a little bit down on the Cowboys," he said. 

Gillham said he expects this weekend, with NFL kicking off, to be even bigger. 

The hours do change a little for football season at Oaklawn. On Saturdays, it will open an hour earlier at 9:00 a.m. 

Even though the Saracen Casino in Pine Bluff is still in the works, sports betting is already on developers minds.

At the Saracen Casino players there can take part in mobile wagering onsite by using their cell phones, as well as, live wagering in the dedicated sportsbook and sports bar area.


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