Since the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018, many of the US states have been quick to legalize sports betting. One of these states is Arkansas. The state is best known as the the home of singer Johnny Cash and it hosts the World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest, but the state is not famous for its gambling industry. Almost out of nowhere, Arkansas, a state with just two gambling venues, became the eighth state to pass legislation permitting wagering on sports events.
Is it legal to bet on sports in Arkansas?
Yes, but there are no sportsbooks operating in the state just yet. During the 2018 mid-term election held on 6 November 2018, voters in the state of Arkansas were given the chance to decide on a constitutional amendment that would expand the states gambling industry.
The constitutional amendment, Issue 4, was introduced as a measure to expand the states gambling options by allowing four casino licenses to be allocated to venues in the state. The amendment also contained provisions for sports betting. The measure was initially introduced to grant automatic casino gambling licenses to the states existing venues and two more licenses for venues to be built in the future.
Issue 4 defined casino gambling 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. Casino gaming shall also be defined to include accepting wagers on sporting events.”
The Southland Racing Corporation in Crittenden County and the Oaklawn Jockey Club in Garland County were granted automatic licenses but will need to expand their facilities to accommodate casino gaming. The remaining two licenses are still up for grabs. One of the remaining licenses will be granted to a venue to be built in Pope County and one will be allocated to the venue to be built in Jefferson County.
Although the states existing venues were granted licenses, any operators that wish to apply for the remaining licenses will need to pay an application fee of up to $250,000 and go through the application process set by the state regulator.
In terms of taxation, The State of Arkansas General Revenue Fund will receive 55% of the tax revenue, the city a casino is located in will receive 19.5% and if the casino is not in a city that revenue will be allocated to the county. The Arkansas Racing Commission will receive 17.5% of tax revenue and 8% of will be allocated to the county where the casino is located.
The amendment requires state regulators to begin accepting applications for sports betting by June 2019 which means that sports betting is still some months away, but it has been legalized.
Where will I be able to place bets on sporting events in Arkansas?
Although the state just passed its sports betting legislation, it will be up to venues with casino licenses to decide if they want to capitalize on the sports betting market. The states two existing venues, Oaklawn Racing & gaming and Southland Park Racing & Gaming are likely to be the first to offer legal sports betting. This is because these venues were granted automatic licenses and the other two venues still need to be built.
|Venue Name||Location||Contact||Opening Hours|
|Oaklawn Racing & Gaming||2705 Central Ave, Hot Springs, AR 71901, USA||+1 800-625-5296||Online form||Sunday – Thursday – 10 am – 3 am
Friday – Saturday – 10 am – 6 am
|Southland Gaming and Racing||1550 North Ingram Blvd, West Memphis, AR 72301, USA||+1 800-467-6182||Online form||24 hours|
What sports will I be able to bet on?
At the moment residents and visitors can bet on horse racing and greyhound racing but the legislation did not specify what sports bettors will be able to wager on. If Arkansas will follow the examples set by other states like Nevada and New Jersey, then it will most likely permit wagering on major league sports and collegiate sports, with the exception of the state’s college teams.
What else can I bet on in Arkansas?
The gambling scene in Arkansas is very restrictive, the nature of the gambling laws make any form of financial gain from wagering illegal. The only safe places to gamble in the state is at one of the state’s two racetrack venues.
Online gambling is not permitted, the closest thing the state has to online gaming is the electronic gaming machines that installed at the states two gambling venues. These machines function just like slot machines and some of them have pooled prizes up for grabs and therefore communicate online, which technically comes under the umbrella of online gambling. Residents and visitors to the state can also place wagers on racing events via mobile devices as long as they are at one of the racing venues.
The state of Arkansas permits social casino games which can be played online or via apps. Southland Park offers its own social casino called Lucky North Casino, which can be played on mobile apps and on desktop computers. The standard social casino options are available in the state which includes Zynga, Slotomania, Big Fish and Double Down Casino. The MGM Resorts platform, MyVegas, is also available to players in Arkansas. On top of this, the state runs a statewide lottery for residents to play.
The states venues also offer a variety of slot games and table games including, although these are technically gambling activities they are classified as games of skill:
Are offshore gambling sites legal in Arkansas?
It is illegal to use offshore gambling sites in Arkansas. The Arkansas State Statute outlines gambling in its criminal code. The states criminal codes states that “It is unlawful for any person to bet any money or other valuable thing or any representative of anything that is esteemed of value on any game prohibited by § 5-66-104. Upon conviction, a person who violates this section is guilty of a violation and shall be fined in any sum not exceeding one hundred dollars ($ 100) nor less than fifty dollars ($ 50.00).” The wording is vague but can overlap with the realm of offshore gambling sites.
Aside from legality, we’d recommend steering clear of offshore gambling and sports betting sites because of the lack of regulation. This means they may not be secure or may not have measures in place to protect vulnerable players. You also have no way of finding out who is handling the money you deposit into an online account. If Arkansas does choose to regulate online sports betting, then there is a strong chance there will be some legal online Arkansas sports betting sites available further down the line.
You can spot offshore gambling sites by looking at the website’s domain name. If you see a domain that ends in .EU or .AG it does not hold a license to operate in Arkansas and therefore should be avoided at all costs.
Will it be safe to bet on sports in Arkansas?
Due to how strict gambling laws in Arkansas are, the state regulators are sure to implement tight and strong regulatory framework to ensure sports betting is safe and fair for everyone involved. However, taking steps to ensure you gamble responsibly and never bet more than you can afford to lose is a vital part is keeping gambling fun. The National Council on Problem Gambling has a number of resources available if you believe that you, or a loved one, may be suffering from gambling problems. The Arkansas Department of Health also has various addiction services and may have information that could help you with gambling-related issues.
You can contact the National Problem Gambling Helpline via:
You can contact the Arkansas Department of Health via:
Who regulates gambling in Arkansas?
The Arkansas Racing Commission is tasked with regulating the entire gambling landscape in the state of Arkansas.
You can contact the Arkansas Racing Commission via:
How old do I have to be to gamble in Arkansas?
To wager on horse racing and play the lottery, players must be 18 years old. To play slot games and other casino games players must be 21 years old.
The journey to legal and regulated sports betting in Arkansas
Arkansas had a long and colorful history with gambling. Starting in the early 1880’s, gambling activities began shortly after the civil war. There were many reports of corruption and organized crime operations fighting for control of the gambling establishments in the state.
1874 – The Arkansas constitution only referenced one type of illegal gambling, lotteries, and did not include a definition for what a lottery was. This led to many people reaching the conclusion that all other forms of gambling were legal. This created a grey area and led to the introduction of horse racing.
1890s – Sportsman Park was built in the Hot Springs area. This led to an increased interest in the sport of thoroughbred horse racing in Arkansas.
1902 – a member of the state’s legislature, William McGuigan, bought land in Hot Springs.
1903 – A number of anti-gambling laws that were in place were repealed. This may or may not have something to do with McGuigan’s purchase of land in a place where gambling thrived. McGuigan turned that land he purchased into Essex Park.
1904 – Essex Park opened and was a hit. A group of businessmen came together and purchased more land in the area and opened the Oaklawn Jockey Club in 1905. This led to a massive amount of competition between the racetracks in the area.
1907 – Due to the competition, McGuigan joined with an anti-gambling group and formed the Citizens Improvement Union. This group’s main goal was to stamp out horse racing in the state altogether. In 1907 McGuigan used his political influence to pass the Citizens Improvement Union’s bill. This bill outlawed horse racing across the state.
Initially the venues in the area ignored this. However, McGuigan continued to use his influence and used the police force and other people who were not police officers, to harass attendees. This led to a drop in income at Oaklawn which was forced to close its doors the same year.
1913 – The hot springs area was ravaged by fires which led to a drop in tourism and damaged the local economy. Local business leaders came together and thought horse racing would manage to generate enough revenue to save the local economy. A bill was proposed but never made it past the state legislature.
1916 – Oaklawn re-opened but claimed it did not offer wagering on its horse racing events. However, it was successful enough that the local economy began to recover.
1920s – The Hot Springs area became a gambling hub and was even bigger than Las Vegas at the time. There were 10 major casinos and many more smaller gambling venues. This went on for almost 20 years.
1935 – After many failed attempts to legalize wagering on horse racing, Governor Julius Futrell signed Act 46 into law, legalizing pari-mutuel betting on horse racing. The only reason this act managed to become a law was that the state had been suffering from the Great Depression.
1947 – A grand jury indicted a number of the major casino owners which led to both legal and regulatory issues for the Hot Springs area. It appeared that times were changing and that the perception towards gambling was changing.
1967 – State lawmakers clamped down on the gambling sector and enacted the strict gambling laws that are in place today. This put an end to gambling activities at Hot Springs once and for all.
1992 – Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) prohibiting sports betting across US states. Four states were made exempt from the law: Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana. These states had legal sports betting regulations in place.
2005 – State lawmakers enacted Act 195 which is also known as the Games of Skill Act. This act allowed the states two major racetrack venues to expand their gambling offerings. It put regulation in place
2008 – State lawmakers authorized the Charitable Bingo and Raffles Enabling Act which allowed for the creation of a state lottery. This allowed residents in Arkansas to participate in various lottery games including multi-state games like Powerball and Mega Millions. This also permitted charitable gambling in the form of bingo.
2009 – The state lottery launched. It was introduced as the scholarship lottery. Funds from the lottery are allocated to fund education for select students and young people.
2018 – On 14 May, the Court reached a decision. In a 7 – 2 vote it was agreed that one of the clauses in PASPA violated the Tenth Amendment, as it commandeered power from states to regulate their own gambling industries. This paved the way for all US states to decide whether or not to legalize sports betting. In the weeks after the repeal of PASPA a number of US sportsbooks launched across the country.
During the mid-term elections, Arkansas voted to approve, Issue 4, an amendment to the states constitution which included provisions to legalize sports betting.
Although sports betting legislation has been passed, the state of Arkansas now has to craft regulations for legal sports betting before it can launch at the venues in the state.