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Mobile sports betting could be headed to Arkansas soon

"All this really means for you as an Arkansan is that you don't have to drive to a casino that could be hours away to do something that you want to do."

PINE BLUFF, Ark. — The sportsbook at Saracen Casino and Resort is crowded on Friday, but soon there could be another option for bettors.

"Is this a game changer? No," Carlton Saffa, Chief Marketing Officer for Saracen, said. "Is it a cool step forward? Absolutely. What we're talking here is appropriately controlled e-commerce from a sports wagering perspective."

Rather than checking the wagering lines on your phone, you could bet from it.

"The main difference, besides the fact that you could bet anywhere, is that you could bet on this," Saffa said, holding his own phone. "You could bet on your phone, you could place a sports wager on your phone."

But this hasn't happened yet, and there's no guarantee it will. Saffa is hopeful, but doesn't want to get ahead of himself.

The next step is a meeting with the Arkansas Racing Commission on November 18th.

"What they'll do is they initiate the rule change," Scott Hardin, spokesperson for the commission, said. "So if they say 'okay, we want to pursue this,' then immediately we post that rule change online for 30 days. We ask the public, 'do you have any feedback?'"

Hardin is in the same boat as Saffa – he doesn't want to get to far ahead – but he's also hopeful this happens.

"With everyone approving, by February, we can maybe see right there as the Super Bowl is about to happen. May be perfect timing," he said. 

If this were to pass, Saffa said there would be rules like age and location verification to make sure those placing bets are actually allowed to.

He said approval of this could be a boom for all three casinos in Arkansas, and the state itself.

"To the folks watching this, whether you've entered a casino, whether you've ever placed a bet, it doesn't matter," he said. "The casinos exist and provide significant tax revenue to the state today. It's a reality, we exist, we provide massive tax revenue to the state, and we employ thousands."

Saffa said this is a step that makes sense, and one that they're ready for.

"All this really means for you as an Arkansan is that you don't have to drive to a casino that could be hours away to do something that you want to do," he said. "You can do things like you do things now, you're just booking a wager right here."

If the racing commission decides to do this, public comment will be accepted for 30 days. After that, pending approval, the Arkansas legislature will have to approve the change.