Arkansas’ gambling laws have changed significantly in the last two years. In 2019, the state allowed sports betting and table games in its two pari-mutuel race tracks. It also passed a law to allow 4 new land-based casinos. Here’s a guide to the land-based and online gambling laws in Arkansas.

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Arkansas Land-Based and Online Gambling Laws

An overview of Arkansas’ evolving gambling laws and gaming niche.

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2018 Arkansas Gambling Votes

In November 2018, Arkansas voters passed two groundbreaking bills — one involving land-based casinos and one involving land-based sports betting.

Amendment 100 legalized sports betting for the state’s two race tracks: Oaklawn Park and Southland Park. Senate Bill 498 codified the law in 2019. Online sportsbooks and mobile sports betting apps were not allowed for the two tracks, so online bookmaker bets remain unregulated.

Arkansas Issue 4 approved land-based casinos for four Arkansas counties: Crittenden, Garland, Pope, and Jefferson. A process for deciding the casino licenses and sites remains ongoing at the moment.

Poker

Arkansas Land-Based Casinos

You’ll find casino gambling at two sites currently: a horse track (Oaklawn Park) and a dog track (Southland Park).

These venues gained the right to convert to full casinos (from racinos) in 2018. Prior to 2018, both tracks could host slots, though blackjack, poker, and craps were banned.

It was a trade-off, because Arkansas voters also approved four more land-based casinos (still to be built). Those casinos will be found in Crittenden County, Garland County, Pope County, and Jefferson County.

Video Poker

Arkansas Off-Track Betting

The two pari-mutuel wagering tracks, Oaklawn Park and Southland Park, are the only legal venues for pari-mutuel wagers.

Both have pari-mutuel wagering and simulcasting for races in over 200 venues nationwide. Other than the two tracks, no OTB facilities exist in Arkansas. You’ll need to visit the two race tracks to bet on horse races or dog races.

Bingo Balls

Arkansas Charitable Gambling

Arkansas passed the Charitable Bingo and Raffles Enabling Act in 2007.

Thus, licensed Arkansas charitable organization host bingo nights and raffles throughout the year. You won’t find as many bingo halls as state that legalized charitable gambling decades ago, but they exist.

Along with the 2018 casino and sports betting laws, the 2007 bingo and raffle law are proof that Arkansas is becoming more open-minded towards legalized gambling.

Poker Games

Arkansas Home Poker Games

Home poker games are inadvisable in Arkansas. The gambling laws are punitive and the law itself is somewhat murky on home games.

If you host poker games at your home, don’t charge a poker rake because it’s strictly illegal. Big fines and jail time up to 1 year is possible.

Roulette

Social Gaming Sites

Social gaming sites like Slotomania, Zynga, Big Fish Games, and Double Down Casino accept players from Arkansas.

Download a social gaming app and you’ll be able to play casino games on Facebook and other social gaming sites. You can download casino apps for Android and iOS, but real money online gambling isn’t allowed.

Also, MyMGM accepts players from Arkansas. MyMGM is the free online casino site owned by MGM Resorts. Players receive virtual chips to play for fun and promotional purposes. While MyMGM doesn’t offer real money gaming, players can win real money rewards they can use at MGM Resorts casinos in nearby Mississippi.

Arkansas Online Gambling History and Timeline

  • Arkansas Gambling Law Overview

    Arkansas Horse Racing

    Arkansas gambling laws focus heavily on the pari-mutuel wagering race tracks: Oaklawn Park and Southland Park.

    Arkansas land-based gambling laws are strict, so you won’t be able to play poker, blackjack, or craps. Poker clubs exist but they need imaginative rules to assure they stay within the law. Arkansas sports betting is legal at both tracks, but not in an online or mobile form.

  • Arkansas Constitution Section 5-68-106: Definition of Betting

    Definition of Betting

    “It is unlawful for any person to bet any money or other valuable thing…that is esteemed of value on any game prohibited by state law.”

    Arkansas’s gambling laws have a broad definition of what betting is. The idea is to make gambling legal for licensed venues but offer punitive measures for illegal gambling. Despite its long history of strict anti-gambling laws, Arkansas appears to be changing its attitudes towards gambling.

  • Arkansas Constitution Section 5-66-107 (a): Definition of Gambling Dens

    European Blackjack

    “It is unlawful for any owner or occupant of any house, outbuilding, or other building or any steamboat, or other vessel to knowingly permit or suffer any games, tables, or banks…”

    Arkansas lawmakers make certain that any form of structure falls within its anti-gambling laws. Steamboats, flatboats, keelboats, or “other vessel on any of the waters in this state” are banned. Even outhouses are banned as potential gambling dens.

  • Arkansas Constitution Section 5-66-107 (b): Punishments for Online Gambling

    New Jersey Sports Betting Case in US Supreme Court 1

    “Upon conviction, a person who violates this section is guilty of an unclassified misdemeanor and shall be fined in any sum not less than one hundred dollars ($100)….

    …”and may be imprisoned any length of time not less than thirty (30) days and no more than one (1) year.”

    Fines for illegal gambling operators are not capped. Imprisonment for illegal gambling operators is anywhere between 30 days and 1 year.

  • Senate Bill 498: New Definition of Casino Betting

    Live Craps

    “‘Casino gaming’ is defined as dealing, operating, carrying on, conducting, maintaining, or exposing for play any game played with cards, dice, equipment, or any mechanical, electromechanical, or electronic device or machine for money, property, checks, credit, or any representative value.”

    A new law in 2019 redefined the definition of casino gaming in Arkansas, while expanding the number of land-based casinos. Online casinos remain unregulated.

  • Senate Bill 498: Arkansas Legalizes Sports Betting

    Arkansas Sports Betting

    (2)”‘Casino gaming’ shall also be defined to include accepting wagers on sporting events which: Occur outside the State of Arkansas; and (B)  Do not involve amateur athletes.

    (3)“Casino gaming” does not include lotteries conducted 18pursuant to Amendment 87 and/or The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery Act, Ark. 19Code Ann. § 23-115-101 et seq.20.”

    The same bill allowed Oaklawn Park and Southland Park to host sports betting.

    In November 2018, Arkansas voters pass Amendment 100 to legalize sports betting at Oaklawn Park and Southland Park. In 2019, the legislature passed Senate Bill 498 to codify the sports betting laws of the state.

Resources for This Article

  1. [1]NYTimes.com: Amarillo Slim, Gambler With a Sly Wit, Dies at 83
  2. [2]InArkansas.com:De Soto, Gambling, Resorts and the Mob: A History of Hot Springs
  3. [3]UARK.edu: Gambling in Arkansas in the Post Lottery Environment
  4. [4]MyArkansasLottery.com
  5. [5]ArkansasNews.com: Could votes shut Oaklawn and Southland casinos?
  6. [6]ArkTimes.com: Legal heavyweights square off on casino amendment
  7. [9]Arkansas.gov: Electronic Games of Skill
  8. [10]Oaklawn: Village Board Ponders Impact of Video Gaming on Oak Lawn
  9. [11]Fox16.com: Arrests made in gambling bust
  10. [12]THV11.com: Little Rock police raid Lucky’s Internet café
  11. [13]ArkansasOnline.com: Club owner to be sentenced in money laundering