Like the majority of its southern neighbors, Arkansas has largely resisted most forms of organized gambling, even as a majority of states have embraced new gaming means.
Like nearly every other state, it does have a government-sanctioned lottery. It also has a pari-mutuel horse track along with one of the few remaining legal dog racing tracks. Still, it took an act from voters in 2018 to approve commercial casinos, making the state one of the last jurisdictions to do so.
With that modern history in mind, it’s hard to believe Arkansas was home to arguably the nation’s most notorious gaming center outside Nevada.
Hot Springs spent nearly a century as a hotbed of organized crime, much of it centering on illegal gambling. Though gambling in the region was known far and wide, local officials largely ignored the illicit gaming, which carried on nearly unabated until federal crackdowns in the 1960s.
Even during Hot Springs heyday, gambling was still outlawed in Arkansas. The rest of the state, by and large, adhered to those prohibitions.
Slowly but surely, Arkansas has caught up with the rest of the country in terms of gambling. It may be a while until Arkansas embraces a robust online sports betting, poker or casino market. It will likely never replicate the underground gambling utopia of nearly 100 years ago. But with recent support for casino gaming, there are now more legal options than ever.
ARKANSAS SPORTS BETTING HANDLE, PAYOUTS, REVENUE MARCH vs. FEB.
|Change||Down 63%||Down 65%||Down 46%|
Updated April 20
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Arkansas online casino gambling is illegal. There are no legal real-money online casino sites available in the state.
Though voters in 2018 backed sports betting authorization within licensed brick-and-mortar facilities, both online and in-person casino gambling remain controversial. There are no plans for legal real-money casino sites in Arkansas now, or for the foreseeable future.
Both Oaklawn and Southland Park were permitted to expand “Las Vegas style” casino offerings such as slots and table games under the referendum. A commercial casino was also permitted in Jefferson County, near Pine Bluff. Groundbreaking began in 2019.
A fourth and final gaming center enabled by the referendum has proven more contentious. Officials in Pope County are still debating the ability to open a casino as part of a lengthy, complex legal battle. It remains to be seen when, or possibly if, the casino will open its doors.
The struggles opening a Pope County casino underscore the conservative religious and cultural attitudes that continue to influence Arkansas politics. While voters may have allowed some limited gaming expansion confined to brick-and-mortar facilities, there seems little appetite for a more far reaching online casino gaming offering.
The Jefferson County casino groundbreaking was a major breakthrough for a state that has largely resisted most forms of gambling for decades. It may be even longer until legal real-money casino gaming comes online in Arkansas.
Social casinos are available and legal in Arkansas, though, both on the internet or as an app, and feature all the popular casino games, including slots, blackjack, video poker and roulette. It is free to play. While you cannot win money playing games at social casinos, the sites like Chumba casino typically offer sweepstakes (games of chance) with prizes that can include real money jackpots.
Arkansas daily fantasy sports contests are legal. Arkansas DFS players can set lineups in the NFL, MLB, NBA and a host of other sports with top sites such as DraftKings and FanDuel.
Arkansas DFS authorization is a bit surprising given the state’s comparative aversion to most forms of gaming. In 2017, the state legalized and regulated the games, becoming one of the earliest DFS adopters in the country.
This means daily fantasy players in Arkansas can enjoy the games legally.
Arkansas online poker is not legal. There are no real-money online poker options in-state players can take part in legally.
Like online casino games, there is little support for real-money internet poker in the state. Five states have legalized the real-money games, and there are a handful others that have considered doing the same, which is more than can be said about online slots, blackjack and roulette. But Arkansas doesn’t appear to be among the early adopters.
The three (and possibly four) new gaming centers will provide Arkansas poker players land-based options, but online games remain unlikely.
Arkansas online sports betting is illegal. Placing bets on sports at licensed brick-and-mortar facilities is permitted under law, but there are currently no legal options for online sports wagering.
Arkansas was the first state to approve sports betting with a public referendum. Voters backed legal sports betting at the state’s venerable Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort as well as Southland Park, its lone greyhound track. The ballot measure also permitted the state’s first two commercial casinos, both of which will be allowed to take bets.
The measure didn’t include online provisions. Lawmakers and regulators may consider online sports betting in coming years, so follow Gambling.com for updates from the Natural State.
In the meantime, residents and visitors have options to place bets on their favorite NFL, MLB or college teams, including the Arkansas Razorbacks. Arkansas was the ninth state to take a legal sports bet, a surprising development in a state without any casinos. With affirmative support from voters in the November 2018 ballot measure, officials moved quickly to permit sports betting at the state’s two gaming centers.
As state officials consider a more expansive move to permit online sports betting, legal wagering continues, giving bettors another option in the dynamic national sports gambling market.
Arkansas takes its first in-person sports bet and breaks ground on its first full-scale commercial casino, two of the most significant developments in the state’s modern gambling history.
Authorities start discussing the options for sports betting, including the potential to have sportsbooks at racetracks. A ballot measure is approved by voters to allow two new gambling facilities, expansions at two existing race tracks and sports betting via all licensed gambling centers. Regulations are reviewed in early 2019 with the first bet expected sometime later in the year.
Lawmakers approve daily fantasy sports regulations.
The state sells its first lottery ticket, one of the last jurisdictions in the nation to do so.
Charitable bingos and raffles are legalized, decades after most other states had already done so.
Facing declining revenues, Oaklawn Racing and Southland Park are permitted to become 'racinos' with a limited supply of traditional casino games including slots.
Hot Springs legendary underground gambling enterprise is effectively eliminated by federal authorities. It had for decades been one of the largest epicenters for illicit gambling in the country.
As Arkansas, along with much of the rest of the country, begins major gambling prohibitions, Hot Springs illegal gambling activities begin in earnest, eventually evolving into a notorious illicit gaming destination.
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