Arkansas has traditionally opposed most forms of gambling and seemed to have little appetite to change that until a November 2018 ballot measure was approved, allowing up to four casinos to offer gambling and sports betting.
The first Arkansas sportsbooks opened in 2019 and 2020 and are set to be followed by more as additional casinos are constructed.
Online betting is currently restricted to horse racing betting, greyhound racing and fantasy sports. The Arkansas Lottery also allows third-party courier service Jackpocket.com to sell state lottery tickets online.
Arkansas does not regulate online gambling and has no plans in place to change that. Mobile sports betting also does not seem very likely in the short term, but the Arkansas Racing Commission has alluded to possibly changing the rules at some point to authorize statewide online betting.
Best Arkansas Betting Sites
Horse and Greyhound Betting:
Arkansas Sports Betting
Arkansas legalized sports betting in November 2018 through a statewide ballot measure asking voters if they approve an amendment to bring sports betting to four pre-selected locations. Those locations include:
- Southland Casino in West Memphis
- Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs
- Saracen Casino in Pine Bluff
- One yet-to-be-built casino in Pope county within two miles of Russellville
The two racetracks received an automatic sports betting license with the passage of the amendment while the other two locations are required to apply separately.
According to the amendment text, the Arkansas Racing Commission regulates sports betting oversees the licensing process. Licenses for the two additional casinos are not to exceed $250,000, but the commission has broad authorities beyond that in terms of managing the application process and determining the rules for sports betting.
The measure also established tax rates for all four casinos: they are taxed at a rate of 13% on the first $150,000,000 of net gaming receipts and 20% on net gaming receipts exceeding $150,000,001. Taxes collected by the state are distributed as follows:
- 55% to the state general revenue fund
- 5% to the city in which the casino is located, unless the casino is not located in a city. In that case 19.5% goes to the county in which the casino is located
- 5% to the Arkansas Racing Commission for distribution to horse and greyhound racing purses
- 8% to the county in which the casino is located
Active Arkansas Sportsbooks
Arkansas is now home to three active sportsbooks. The Race and Sports Book at Oaklawn was the first past the finish line in July 2019 when General Manager Wayne Smith placed a $5 bet on the Dallas Cowboys to beat the New York Giants in the NFL season opener.
Is Online Sports Betting Legal in Arkansas?
Statewide mobile sports betting is not permitted in Arkansas. The November 2018 ballot measure did not specifically address online betting one way or another, but regulations issued by the Arkansas Racing Commission close the door on that.
Section 20.055 (page 255) of Arkansas sports betting regulations state it plainly:
Licensees / books shall not accept wagers from any person who is not physically present on the Licensee’s / franchise holder’s premises…
However, there is some potential for that to change. In December 2019, Arkansas Racing Commission spokesman Scott Hardon told KATV the commission could conceivably authorize mobile betting through a rule change:
“The racing commission would make the change, they would edit the rule, the rule is then provided to some legislative committees to look at, really give that rubber stamp of approval and then once that’s finished, the rule in place.”
That is far from a guarantee of course, but as other states generate millions of dollars in additional revenue via mobile betting, Arkansas officials may be persuaded to make that change.
Horse Racing Betting in Arkansas
Arkansas is home to two major racetracks: Oaklawn Racing for horse racing and Southland Casino Racing 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 licensed horse racing websites.
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 sites recommended at the top of this page 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.
Southland Casino, however, is set to phase out greyhound racing by 2023. In an agreement reached in October 2019, Southland Casino Racing and the AR Greyhound Kennel Association agreed to reduce the number of greyhound races over each of the following three years with all greyhound racing set to end by December 31st, 2022. The casino will remain operational even without racing.
This comes despite a Delaware North (parent company of Southland Casino) representative telling the Arkansas Times earlier in 2019 that the casino had no plans to exist the greyhound racing business:
Racing continues to be an important part of Southland Gaming & Racing’s exciting entertainment offerings and in contributing to our local and regional economy in West Memphis and Arkansas. We’ve actually made a number of improvements to Southland’s racing operations in recent years, including a new onsite kennel facility and renovations to the concessions area.
All racing activities in Arkansas are regulated by the state Racing Commission.
Greyhound Racing Betting
Greyhound racing is still legal in Arkansas for now even as the state’s remaining greyhound track phases out live racing. Southland Park is one of the country’s few surviving greyhound tracks after Florida voters decided to prohibit greyhound betting via an amendment approved in November 2018. At the time, Florida was home to 11 of the country’s 17 operational greyhound tracks.
The 2018 amendment that authorized sports betting in Arkansas also requires gambling facilities to set 14% of casino gambling net receipts for racing purses, but it appears even that was not enough to save greyhound racing at Southland. Between declining interest and increased concerns for the welfare of dogs, greyhound racing is on its last legs across the nation.
However, gambling net receipts are set to grow now that former AR racetracks are authorized to offer full-fledged casino games and sports betting. Shortly after the amendment passed, Southland officials announced plans for a $250 million expansion to include a 20-story hotel, 2400 gambling machines and 60 table games.
Arkansas Daily Fantasy Sports
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.
Arkansas Online Poker
Online poker may be on its way to Arkansas due to a largely overlooked quirk in the 2018 law that legalized sports betting.
The word “poker” did not even appear in the text of the amendment approved by voters in 2018, but regulations issued the following year include an entire chapter (pg. 77) dedicated to the regulation of online poker.
This does not mean Arkansas online poker is a shoo-in, but it definitely shows state regulators have it in mind.
In-person poker is heavily restricted in the state of Arkansas. Currently, there is not much by 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.
Buy Arkansas Lottery Tickets Online
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.
Residents may buy Arkansas lottery tickets online through Jackpocket.com, which is the state’s only authorized third-party ticket courier service. The AR Lottery itself does not sell tickets online, but users can download the Jackpocket app to order Powerball, Mega Millions and Natural State Lottery tickets without visiting a retailer in person.
Once orders are placed through the Jackpocket app, a Jackpocket employee will visit an authorized Arkansas Lottery retailer to buy real tickets in-person. Jackpocket will then scan a copy of the ticket, upload the image to the user’s personal account and pay 100% of any winnings to the user.
Jackpocket is the only lottery courier service authorized in Arkansas. There are other websites that may claim to offer legal online lottery sales, but Jackpocket is the only one that is fully legal and based in the United States.