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Saracen Casino Resort Requests Change in Arkansas Law to Expand Online Gambling

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Saracen Casino Resort marketing manager Carlton Saffa has written to Arkansas Racing Commission chairman Alex Lieblong asking for a law change.

Saracen Casino Resort marketing manager Carlton Saffa seeks to expand online gambling in Arkansas casinos 

Arkansas casinos are allowed to offer online sports betting. However, games such as slots, craps, blackjack are required by law to be played only in the casino establishment.

Sports betting was legalized in Arkansas in November 2018. Initially, retail sports wagering at licensed casinos was the only option for Arkansans. 

Online sports betting became available in March 2022 after lawmakers agreed to regulate mobile sportsbook apps and betting sites.

If the commission approves Saffa’s request, all three existing Arkansas casinos, including Southland Casino Hotel in West Memphis and Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs, would be allowed to offer the aforementioned games online. 

In his letter, Saffa asserts that casinos are permitted to offer online poker and card games, so adding a few more would only benefit the gambling industry.

“A solution exists by amending ARC Rule 5, which already authorizes online poker, to include other types of table games and slots,” Saffa told Gambling.com in March. 

“Doing so would provide significant tax revenue to government and just as important, ensure that operators [are] held accountable by the government. Given that we have seen online operators in the fantasy sports space ignore cease and desist demands from the state, merely attempting to police the matter is not a workable solution.”

Saffa says a wider selection of online games would help state coffers collect more than $20 million

Saffa argues that adding more available games at Saracen Casino Resort and other brick-and-mortar casinos would help gamblers avoid illegal online offshore operators, which offer a wider variety of online games. A number of online casinos are not regulated or taxed by the Arkansas Racing Commission. 

“People in Arkansas are already gambling in online casinos, and those companies are not regulated or taxed by the Arkansas Racing Commission,” Saffa said. “Those companies are not held to the standards the people of Arkansas set forth for operators, to include that a customer must be 21.”

Furthermore, Saffa wrote in the letter claiming that additional online games could bring in more than $20 million to state coffers, along with $12 million in state gaming tax revenue, $3.7 million to the Oaklawn Jockey Club, and $5.6 million to the operators in Pine Bluff and Jefferson County.

“Most importantly, amending Rule 5 [to add additional games] would provide a legitimate alternative to those already imposing their products onto Arkansas consumers, without regard for your standards of operation and without regard to your rules regarding minors placing bets,” Saffa said in the letter.

In March, Saffa also told Gambling.com he plans to appear before the state Racing Commission on May 6, seeking approval of iGaming. The commission regulates all types of gambling in the state, including horse racing and casino games.

Saracen Casino Resort will likely offer more games in the future. Though, there is no set timetable if it’s on the agenda. 

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