Arkansas is opposed to most forms of gambling and seems to have no appetite to change that within the next few years. The state outlaws all forms of gambling, including poker, except for the few explicitly authorized games hosted at licensed facilities. Players can visit either of the state’s two racetracks to play slot machine games, electronic table games and electronic poker.
Online betting is also restricted to horse racing, greyhound racing and fantasy sports. The state does not regulate online poker sites or casinos and has no plans or pending legislation to expand its online gaming options. Fortunately, there are a few options that remain open to residents of Arkansas.
Best Arkansas Betting Sites
Horse and Greyhound Betting:
Arkansas does not have legal sports betting and there are currently no plans in place to introduce legislation authorizing the activity. A widely-circulated industry report published in 2017 indicated Arkansas is likely to legalize sports betting within seven years, but to date no lawmakers have introduced legislation to that effect.
Simple arguments can be made for and against sports betting coming to Arkansas in the future. On one hand, the gaming laws here are fairly restrictive as they only allow real-world gaming at the two licensed casinos and limited forms of online gaming. On the other hand, Arkansas did finally get around to legalizing fantasy sports, which is a sign that lawmakers are at least somewhat comfortable with sports-related gaming.
There is also the possibility that existing Arkansas casinos decide they would like to get a piece of the action and begin lobbying state lawmakers to legalize sports betting. The sports betting industry is expected to be worth billions of dollars one day, and that’s the kind of money that can change long-held opinions in a hurry.
Current Arkansas gambling laws prohibit sports betting and most other forms of gaming. The penalties for participating in illegal gambling are extremely minor, but it’s enough to put an end to any sort of local industry. If sports betting is to come to Arkansas, existing laws must be amended and new regulations will need to be drafted to govern the activity.
After the 2018 Supreme Court ruling striking down PASPA, Arkansas lawyer and former state representative Nate Steel said he does not see much motivation among lawmakers to pass a bill legalizing sports betting in the near future. If sports betting is to come to Arkansas, he says it will likely come as a part of a bigger gaming package rather than convincing the legislature to repeal the state’s own ban on sports betting.
Here is how he put it:
“I think it’ll be extraordinarily difficult to see the legislature simply change the law. It could be part of a greater scheme, to authorize, say, our state lottery, or some other kind of mechanism. If it’s part of a greater plan, I could see the legislature taking action. But, simply repealing the statute that currently bans sports wagering, I don’t see that happening.”
Horse Racing Betting in Arkansas
Arkansas is home to two major racetracks: Oaklawn Racing for horse racing and Southland Park for greyhounds. Both tracks host live events and accept parimutuel wagers on all upcoming races. Bets can be placed in-person at both or online at any licensed horse racing website.
OaklawnAnywhere.com accepts wagers over the internet but there are a few other options for internet horse wagering. Oaklawn Anywhere works well enough, but the above sites have a much wider selection of betting options, handicapping tools and racetracks to choose from. All are licensed in the United States and are legal places to bet real money.
Online horse betting is exempt from federal anti-betting laws and is therefore legal in most states. Arkansas authorizes licensed websites to offer wagers to players residing in the state. Betting at any legal racing website is as simple as choosing a track, selecting a race and then filling out an electronic betting slip.
If you don’t live near one of the state’s two racetracks, online betting is a convenient alternative to making the drive. You can fund your account with a credit card, echeck or money order and be ready to go in minutes. All racing activities in Arkansas are regulated by the state Racing Commission.
Online fantasy sports betting was declared a game of skill under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. This makes it legal in all states except those that have additional legislation that make it illegal to wager money on anything. There are a few states in the Union with such laws on the books but Arkansas is not one of those.
Arkansas recognized daily fantasy sports and formally legalized the activity in 2017 to remove any possible ambiguity. Governor Asa Hutchinson signed HB 2250 into law in April of 2017 after the bill easily cleared house and senate votes earlier that year.
HB 2250 is a bit different than legislation enacted in other states in that it does not specify any new regulations specific to fantasy beyond defining what a legal fantasy contest is and enacting an 8% tax rate on DFS operators.
For those unfamiliar with fantasy sports betting, this is the game in which you draft a team of players from around the league. Each player has an associated cost based on his recent performance and you have a salary cap that limits how much you can spend in total. Your goal as a player is to draft the most effective team possible given the virtual salary cap.
Your fantasy team accumulates points based on how well your picks perform in the real world. If your running back rushes for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns, for example, you get a bunch of points for your team. This same process is applied to every member of your team. The person whose team ends up with the most points wins the contest.
Fantasy sports sites typically host week-long leagues. In the NFL, for example, a typical contest includes all games running from Sunday through Monday evening. You can play in heads-up contests against one other person or in large leagues that consist of hundreds (or thousands) of fantasy teams. Prizes range from a few dollars to several million dollars depending on the number of participants.
All in all, fantasy betting is a lot of fun. It’s similar to traditional sports betting in that it requires a deep knowledge of the game to do well. It’s different than traditional betting in that it is perfectly legal online. This is a seriously fun way to put your sports knowledge to the ultimate test. You can get started for just a few bucks and all the major sites accept deposits via credit card, debit card and PayPal.
Poker is heavily restricted in the state of Arkansas. Southland Park has a nice little table room with Texas Holdem and Omaha cash games and tournaments. Apart from that, there isn’t much in the way of legal poker options. Arkansas law bans betting on almost everything if it doesn’t happen at a racetrack or approved betting site.
A.C.A. 5-66-112 of the Arkansas Code has this to say on the matter:
If a person bets any money or any valuable thing on any game of brag, bluff, poker, seven-up, three-up, twenty-one, vingt-et-un, thirteen cards, the odd trick, forty-five, whist, or at any other game of cards known by any name now known to the law or with any other or new name or without any name, upon conviction he or she is guilty of a violation and shall be fined in any sum not less than ten dollars ($10.00) nor more than twenty-five dollars ($25.00).
The penalty isn’t overly harsh but it does clearly indicate the state’s stance on participating in real money poker games. The code also has laws that make it a crime to operate a “gambling house” as a Class D felony punishable by up to 6 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
In theory, it is illegal to play online poker in Arkansas or even participate in social games with your friends. These laws are not regularly enforced and authorities seem keener on cracking down on those who operate underground poker games rather than the individual players.
Many people play online poker from Arkansas at offshore sites despite the potential $25 fine. The state isn’t interested in raiding people who play games in private at home. The biggest issue for players is simply finding a place to play. Because there is no licensing body for online poker, players who choose to play online must play at unregulated sites hosted overseas.
Gambling in Arkansas
Traditional gambling is mostly outlawed in Arkansas. The state has two land-based casinos attached to racetracks and zero online casinos. These casinos are not traditional casinos, but are instead restricted “electronic games of skill” that resemble blackjack and poker except the players manipulate their bets with virtual chips on tablets placed in front of them on the table.
Real cards are used in these games but the players use their tablets to manage their wagers and keep track of their money. Players buy in with cash and are given virtual chips in return. At the end of the game, the players may redeem those chips for real money.
The same law that authorizes these games also appears to outlaw online casinos in Arkansas. This particular piece of text appears to criminalize online poker and casino games hosted anywhere outside of authorized racetracks:
No one other than the Franchise Holder and its employees (and patrons playing the game) may operate the electronic games of skill. The games may not be located in a place other than the grounds of the Franchise Holder’s facility, as approved by the Commission.
This law will make it difficult to change the situation for online gambling any time soon. Arkansas takes a conservative approach to gaming and has no plans in place to legalize or regulate internet betting. To date, state lawmakers have made no attempt to introduce legislation that would bring online gaming to Arkansas.
The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery was established in 2009 as the state’s first official lottery. As the name indicates, the lottery is used to raise funds for sending kids to college. It has already awarded 133,000 scholarships in the handful of years it has been in operation.
Lottery tickets cannot be purchased online or in the mail and the state does not authorize third parties to sell tickets or subscriptions over the internet. If you see a website that promises to purchase tickets on your behalf, know that it is completely unregulated and there are no guarantees you’ll be paid.
You may see references to “online” tickets but this term is used to describe tickets that are purchased from machines at authorized retailers. These machines are connected to the central lottery system and generate tickets without a human attendant.