Arkansas Athletic Chiefs Suggest Sports Betting Rule Changes

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Racing Commission has received almost 150 comments on proposed sports betting rules for casinos, including suggestions from four state university athletic directors on how to ensure the integrity of the industry.

Arkansas voters approved an amendment in November that allows the state to have four casinos, including one in Pope County.

In a joint letter submitted to the commission before Monday’s deadline, the athletic directors of Arkansas State University and the University of Arkansas System’s Fayetteville, Little Rock and Pine Bluff campuses sought protections to reduce the risk of student-athlete exploitation and preserve collegiate game integrity by limiting the people who can place wagers and the types of wagers that can be placed.

The letter also proposes adding a definition for the term “sporting event,” The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

“No one can deny the tremendous financial and reputational harm that a sports betting scandal would cause to our state universities and student-athletes, along with millions of fans, alumni and donors who support them,” the letter said.

The directors also suggested cooperation between casino licensees, sports books, the commission, and in-state colleges and universities and their governing bodies, especially during investigations of suspected illegal betting.

Pope County residents submitted about 98 percent of the comments, with only 20 residents expressing support for bringing a casino to the area. Residents expressed concerns after county officials who were nearing the end of their terms submitted letters to the commission in December endorsing Gulfside Casino Partnership LLC’s proposal for a casino in Russellville.

“Regardless of the past, if Gulfside thinks that a casino would be so wonderful in Pope County, why are they so intimidated to present their wonderful deal to the current mayor, judge and citizens of Pope County?” Pope County resident Lori Eshnaur wrote.

Russellville resident Michael Bradford said he supports the casino because of the revenue and jobs it would add.

“Pope County and Russellville need good jobs, places for our young people and elderly to work without having to leave the area,” he said.

The commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed rules Thursday in Little Rock. The commission can then adopt, modify or reject the rules before sending them to a legislative committee for approval. Casino applications won’t be considered until the rules are in place.

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