Arkansas Casinos and Gambling

Short Summary:  Arkansas is not particularly liberal when it comes to its gaming laws, but it is more liberal than most other deeply Southern states in that it has two casinos with racing, electronic bingo and table games.  There may be more casinos to come depending on how the November 2018 vote goes, but that remains to be seen. Most anti-gambling laws in the state tend to focus on operators rather than players.

While Arkansas is more conservative than most states when it comes to gambling, they are reasonably liberal by Southern State standards. Far from Alabama, which doesn’t even have a lottery as of the time of this writing, Arkansas has several different gaming options:

  • Charitable
  • Pari-Mutuel
  • Lottery
  • Commercial (Kind of)

Furthermore, it is currently on the ballot for up to four casinos to open in Arkansas in other counties and this will be (or has been, depending on when you are reading) voted upon in November of 2018. Depending on how this vote goes, this page will be updated accordingly.

The commercial casinos in Arkansas are only kind of casinos because they operate strictly Class II Electronic Bingo, which means that the results are selected from a pool of possible results and the machine do not operate on a separate EPROM chip to ensure completely random results. Rather, they are linked together to a central server from which the results are pulled and the display corresponds to those results. Just recently, these locations have been authorized to offer table games.

Pari-Mutuel racing is legal in Arkansas, so, therefore, racetracks with both simulcast and live action wagering are permitted to exist. This has been the case in Arkansas for an innumerable number of years as racing animals is more popular in Southern states than elsewhere, although a wide variety of states have horse racing. The state taxes racetracks at a rate of 1% of all simulcast revenues as well as 7% of all live handle monies. It is at the two racetracks that the electronic bingo is also conducted.

Both raffle and bingo are permitted in the State of Arkansas, Arkansas Arkansas actually taxes the distributors of the cards an Excise Tax of 0.3 cents per Bingo Card. There is no tax whatsoever on Raffles and most charitable raffles conducted within the state, as with other states, are 50/50 raffles. One must be licensed within the state to conduct Bingo or disseminate Bingo materials, but any bona fide non-profit organization can do a raffle anytime it wants to.

Arkansas conducts a state lottery and it is the State Lottery Commission that generally oversees all forms of gambling. This lottery is also linked to the national games such as Mega Millions and PowerBall.

Top 3 Arkansas Online Casinos

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Arkansas Online Gambling Law

Arkansas prohibits any form of wagering that has not been specifically authorized by the state, but the fines associated therewith are pretty light. Any instance of unlawful wagering, as a player, simply calls for a fine of $50-$100. This is all covered under section 5-66-106 of the Arkansas code, and there is virtually no way that any law enforcement would have interested in a player who is merely playing online from his own home.

All other Arkansas gambling laws are focused on operators and would have nothing to do with people who are just playing. Possession of a device which is defined as, “Any device used for gambling,” is illegal if you are an operator and the mode of gambling has not been specifically authorized by the state.

The only gambling arrests of any kind to take place in the State of Arkansas that we could find all had to do with illegal gambling operators in physical locations and no players were even arrested or fined in those cases.

Interestingly, there is technically recourse available for a player who loses online, or to anyone who is operating gambling unlawfully within the state. The person may sue for recovery, but that is not actually going to work against an online casino located overseas. Even if you were to win your lawsuit, the State of Arkansas has no means by which to enforce the judgment because the company is located offshore and out of U.S. jurisdiction.

Again, you have nothing to worry about as a player.

More Facts about Arkansas Gambling Law

Arkansas is one of just a few US states where gambling authorities enforce the state’s strict anti-gaming laws. The most recent case I can find that’s worth point outcomes from 2010 – after an operation performed in concert with the FBI, Arkansas State Troopers found a large group of citizens guilty of “operating an illegal gambling business.” This charge is a class C Felony with a maximum charge of five years’ imprisonment and fines as high as $25,000.

Planning to gamble over the Internet while living in Arkansas? Be careful – while there is no specific prohibition against online betting, the state code’s prohibition against any form of betting not explicitly made legal could put you in dutch with authorities.

Casinos In Arkansas

It bears repeating that these are not actually, “Casinos,” in the proper sense as they offer only Class II machines. These locations would also offer live and simulcast racing.

Depending on how the upcoming (as of the time of this writing) vote goes in November 2018, we will update this page if the four casinos that have been mentioned in the vote open.

Oaklawn Racing and Gaming

This establishment contains live and simulcast racing and is located in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It features several reel machines, and just recently, was authorized to have table games.

These games include Blackjack, Three-Card Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold ‘EmCraps and Roulette.

Southland Park Gaming and Racing

This establishment is located in West Memphis, Arkansas. They offer over 2,000 “Gaming machines,” as well as live blackjack and three-card poker as well as a few other electronic table games. They continue to offer over 400 live greyhound races every year as well as horse and greyhound simulcast betting options. This is also the only casino in Arkansas to offer live poker as of the time of this writing.

Casinos to Come

The other counties in Arkansas are getting a little bit jealous due to the fact that these two counties not only have electronic bingo, but NOW also have electronic table games and live dealer table games. They are hoping for the voters to come through for them in November 2018 so that four of them can open some casinos of their own.

The History of Arkansas Gambling

It’s not well-remembered today, but The Natural State was once home to the notorious types of mobsters and other organized crime figures that we associate with cities like Chicago and Las Vegas today. How’d it get that way?

Hot Springs was probably the first gambling Mecca in America, experiencing a huge rush of gaming tourism beginning immediately after the Civil War. Financial troubles during Reconstruction pushed local authorities to allow gaming, as did a good deal of corruption on the part of elected officials. Al Capone even had a small role to play in the gaming scene in Arkansas in the 1920s.

You might think that Arkansas was pro-gambling at that time, but you’d be wrong. The state had laws against all forms of betting in its law books even then – but we know for a fact that no arrests related to gaming were made in Hot Springs until the year 1967. Unregulated gaming took place there for some fifty years until Governor Winthrop Rockefeller sent in squads of state troopers to shut down all casino operations and burn all the gaming machines, tables, and other props.

Enforcement has been fairly strict in the state since 1967 – except for Oaklawn Park and Southland Park. In part due to decades-old bribery arrangements, and in part because they made the bulk of their money on race betting and not casino gambling, these sites are simply exempt from state law, apparently by fiat. What started with the addition of a few Instant Racing games in 2003 is expanding, little by little, to the point where some are predicting that the state could allow table gaming within the next five years or so.

Conclusion

Arkansas is finally coming around when it comes to live casino options as it finally offers table games. Let’s hope that these locations can eventually get some video poker devices, too.

Arkansas remains one of the more liberal Southern states (which isn’t saying much) when it comes to gambling as it technically has two casinos, lottery and is pretty reasonable when it comes to charitable gambling. Social gambling is basically legal, such as home games, considering the biggest penalty for unlawful gambling as a player is a fine between $50-$100.

Further, while the law has been upheld and operators of unlawful forms of gambling have been charged, we can find no instance of anything along these lines ever happening to a player. The fines would be pretty weak even if they did, but also nobody in Arkansas law enforcement would have any reason to know what you are doing in your own home.

For those reasons, we conclude that you should feel perfectly safe gambling online in Arkansas, provided that you are just a player and not an operator.

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