Feb 9, 2024 - News

Arkansans expected to bet big on Kansas City for Super Bowl

Data: Legal Sports Report; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Legal Sports Report; Chart: Axios Visuals

Pine Bluff's Saracen Casino Resort paid out $1.3 million on wagers placed on the 2023 Super Bowl. The casino expects bets on this year's game to almost double.

  • "If last year was any indication, we're gonna lose our ass," Saracen spokesperson Carlton Saffa half joked with Axios.

Driving the news: Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas on Sunday will mark only the second time people in Arkansas can legally bet on the game without physically being in Hot Springs, Pine Bluff or West Memphis.

Why it matters: More than $404 million in wagers — the handle — was placed on sporting events through Arkansas' three casinos in 2023, which doubled the 2022 total.

  • More than $353 million of that was bet online.
  • The state collected $25.8 million in total gambling taxes in 2023, including bets made on slots and tables.

Between the (Vegas) line: The Kansas City Chiefs are the "hometown favorites" for Arkansans, just edging out the Dallas Cowboys, said Neal Atkinson, director of table, poker and sports book operations for Saracen.

  • "Almost 80% of our incoming money [for the Super Bowl] is going on Kansas City," he said.
Data: Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration; Chart: Axios
Data: Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration; Chart: Axios

The big picture: Nationwide, a record 68 million people are expected to bet $23 billion on the big game, per the American Gaming Association. Last year's expectation was $16 billion.

State of play(s): Aside from Taylor Swift, a driver for the increase in sports gambling are proposition — or "prop" — bets. These are wagers on an occurrence or nonoccurrence during the game, like the coin toss outcome.

  • An example this year might be: Will Travis Kelce score the first touchdown by running the ball?

Meanwhile, play-by-play bets — what Saracen calls flash bets — on specific outcomes of the next part of the game while it's actively being played weren't offered by the casino for last year's big game but will be Sunday.

  • These in-play bets were 22% of the casino's total sports handle during 2023; this year, it's looking more like 45%.

By the numbers: Arkansas casinos pay 13% in taxes on all sports betting revenue up to $150 million during the year. The rate moves to 20% of all revenue above $150 million.

  • 55% of the taxes collected go to the state's general fund.
  • 27.5% goes to the city and county in which the casino is located.
  • 17.5% goes to the Arkansas Racing Commission for deposit into its Purse and Awards Fund.

Of note: The only way to place a legal sports wager in Arkansas is at one of the state's three licensed casinos or via the apps they offer.

What they're saying: "We may see some sports betting tourism this weekend from citizens of states including Texas that don't have the legal sports betting option in place," Scott Harding with the state Department of Finance and Administration said in an email.

  • "What I'm trying to make abundantly clear is we stand to lose a hell of a lot of money," Saffa told Axios.
  • "But that's the nature of the business … we ride along just like the player does."

Go deeper: What to know about gambling addiction

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the correct spelling of Saracen spokesperson Carlton Saffa's name.


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