Arkansas has taken a unique homegrown approach, according to Brandon Walker, Head of Amelco USA, who believes that it will create an ‘innovative playing field’ for their casinos.
Opening earlier this year back in March, Arkansas was one of the latest states to join the legal sports betting vertical. Speaking to SBC Leaders as part of its magazine edition, Walker was joined by Victor Araneda, Chief Business Development Officer at Gaming1, to discuss the competitive opportunities and regulatory challenges in the Natural State, while also highlighting the importance of local partnerships.
Delving into what competitive advantages or disadvantages the state’s current licensing structure has for companies looking to enter the market, Walker noted that as it stands, there are currently three casinos in the state, with one more being built.
He continued: “In theory, each of these casinos have been granted two licences – allowing for eight joint ventures of their choice with online platform and sportsbook suppliers to power their operations.
“I suspect, however, that not all these casinos will be making use of their second licence as they’d like to keep the first for market share.
“When it comes to competitive advantage, this means that we have the ability to flex our muscles when it comes to what we have to offer. In this structure there is a massive advantage for the local brands’ exposure – where they can take the initiative in providing online sports betting.”
Looking into the disadvantages, Walker pinpointed both Iowa and Tennessee, which he highlighted could draw “interesting comparisons”, stating that in contrast, their licensing models are open to far more applications.
“Inevitably, this can result in a lot of deadwood with average products and systems,” Walker commented. “I believe less can be more and, in the case of Arkansas, this could really be an advantage when it comes to providing a top local playing experience.”
Echoing the thoughts of Walker, Araneda claimed that Gaming1 has been the “preeminent proponent” of this type of licensing system at an international level for well over a decade and stated that, from experience, this method is “crucial” for the long-term viability of brick-and-mortar operators to be allowed to expand their operations to an interactive environment.
He said: “This is something we’ve seen in our own land-based markets transition from pure retail in Belgium, France and Switzerland, as well as with several of our international partners. Without the ability to transition, traditional casinos face an existential threat.”
Looking into the key advantages, from Arandeda’s perspective, this structure provides to lawmakers, regulators and patrons, is that traditional operators tend to have strong ties, something decades long, to the communities.
Gaming1’s CBD continued: “In most cases, operators like Southland have spent significant amounts in creating the infrastructure, brand recognition and best practices, not to mention their function as job generators.
“Allowing fly-by-night operators, many of which were in operation before regulations were in place, is a mistake that can be easily avoided by approving frameworks similar to Arkansas.”
Looking at how the market can remain competitive, with only a select number of operators anticipated to enter Arkansas, Walker believes this approach in the long-run will become beneficial.
He explained: “When you break it down, you get a perfectly specialised offering homegrown book, local brand, with the revenue being re-invested in the community. To do that, it’s all about consistently delivering the best in new technology, features and customer support.
“The key to the early days of going live for any operator is to listen to initial customer feedback in real-time and enhance your product accordingly.”
Adding to the point, Araneda made comparisons to regulators who have a responsibility towards safeguarding the long-term viability of local businesses, stating operators are the same but towards their patrons.
He concluded: “This is more so the case where players only have a handful of options. We believe that generating omnichannel experience with our casino partner is key to that success.
“This type of transformational change requires significant work and commitment from all team members.”