Gambling in Arkansas is relatively new. Arkansas has experienced a widespread shift with regard to games of chance. There are now options for slot machines, table games, poker, sports betting, and lottery games in the state. You can still bet on the ponies or the greyhounds, too.
Even with all the additional gambling and casino games in Arkansas, there is still room for expansion. One of four planned casinos is still under construction. But the efforts to legalize online gambling have been minimal in Arkansas.
If you live in Arkansas or plan to visit, this page has information on all your gambling options, including how to play casino games online through sweepstakes casinos. Read on for all the latest about placing a bet in the land of the Ozarks.
Play online slots or casino games in Arkansas
Is online gambling legal in Arkansas?
Mostly no. In terms of the main forms of gambling, like slots and table games, there are no legal online options in Arkansas. The 2019 Code of Arkansas operates in much the same way as similar statutes in other states, in that gambling is both generally and definitively outlawed as a default rule. From that position, the Legislature then carves out exceptions as legal gambling options. In other words, until we hear otherwise from state lawmakers, online gambling is illegal under the blanket prohibition in Title 5, Chapter 66 of the Arkansas Code.
There are a few forms of online gambling that are available to Arkansans, however. One is daily fantasy sports. Arkansas is one of a handful of states to have enacted a law officially allowing DFS. 2017’s Act 1075 declared that “a paid fantasy sports game conducted in compliance with this chapter does not constitute gambling.” Thus, you can play on DraftKings, FanDuel, or any other DFS provider from within Arkansas.
Another form of online wagering available in Arkansas is online horse betting. This is the only kind of gambling with a long history in the state, and thanks to a 2000 amendment to the Interstate Horse Racing Act of 1978, states gained the ability to allow residents and visitors to bet on horse racing online. Thus, you can access online horse betting sites like TVG through your mobile device or computer from anywhere in the state.
Finally, you can try sweepstakes casino sites and social casino sites. These sites use sweepstakes laws to legally offer casino-style games in almost all US states. Sweepstakes and social sites must be possible to play for free, must award their advertised prizes, and must award them irrespective of how much money a player has spent on the site. Although it might seem a bit odd, several sites have figured out how to apply these standards to casino gaming. We’ll talk about your different options below.
Are online casinos legal in Arkansas?
No. Online casinos are not legal in Arkansas. Arkansas gambling law is such that any gambling the state does not specifically allow is illegal.
Can you play online poker in Arkansas?
No. As is the case with most other types of online gambling, online poker is not legal in Arkansas.
Will Arkansas regulate online gambling in the future?
Hard to say. Before 2005, the answer would have been an unequivocal “no,” as Arkansas fell into the same category of states like Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Texas, and Tennessee with regard to its hostility toward most gambling. However, the Natural State went from a racing-only state to a state with full-blown casinos, sportsbooks, DFS, and lottery in roughly 11 years. In other words, big changes can come quickly in Arkansas, so we can’t rule out online gambling coming to the state sometime relatively soon.
Two of those changes tried to take shape in 2021. Rep. Aaron Pilkington filed HB1869 in April to push forward with the creation of keno games and iLottery within the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery. The bill was fairly bold, considering that keno has its own section of the Arkansas Code specifically outlawing it in the state. But the bill died in the House Rules Committee.
We also cannot rule out the possibility that sports betting will be the catalyst for Arkansas to move toward online gambling. Rep. Lee Johnson introduced HB1942 in April 2021. The bill would have made “online sports pools” legal for casinos to operate. In places with both retail and online sports betting, online is the dominant form. In fact, in some cases, online sports betting accounts for more than 90% of the bets in the state. For that reason, there is serious momentum toward expanding legal sports betting to be available online.
Already this year, the AR Racing Commission voted to change its rules to allow sportsbooks in the state to take wagers online. All that remains now is for a legislative committee to approve the same changes. Should that happen, mobile wagering could start in AR very quickly thereafter.
For many legislators, expanding gambling is a bit like getting a tattoo. After you get your first one, you know that it doesn’t hurt too bad and you have more things you want to do. So it’s possible that online sports betting in Arkansas could turn into online casino gambling and poker. However, that’s getting ahead of things. Arkansas lawmakers are still deciding where they want their first tattoo to be, so to speak, or if they’re even going to get ink done at all.
What are sweepstakes casinos and poker sites?
The only online casino-like options that are legally available to Arkansans are sweepstakes casino and poker sites. Although there are many choices, we recommend Chumba Casino, Global Poker, LuckyLand Slots, and Funzpoints. Chumba has both slots and table games, Global has a small selection of slots and games (along with poker), LuckyLand has many fully realized slot titles, and Funzpoints has slots and keno.
Before we talk about how these sites can be in business, it’s important to understand what makes something a legal sweepstakes contest. Although laws may vary a little from state to state, in general, they all require the same things:
- The sweepstakes must be free to enter.
- The contest must award the prize that it advertises and must do so in a timely manner.
- Players must not be able to increase their chances of winning through purchases.
In terms of the gameplay on sweepstakes sites, there’s really not much difference compared to real online casinos or poker rooms. The slots and table games function the same way, and the rules are usually identical. The only difference is that online casinos are not bound by the rule that they must award their advertised prizes and be free to join.
Legal Arkansas online gambling vs. offshore sites
If you’ve done any Googling recently, the sections above may not make much sense to you. After all, a search for “Arkansas online casinos” or “Arkansas online poker” reveals multiple sites advertising real money online casino play in the Natural State. However, the distinction that you missed is the word “legal.” There are no legal online casinos in Arkansas, full stop. Any information to the contrary is in error or a distortion of the truth.
However, those sites in your search results certainly exist. The problem, though, is that playing on one of these sites means you’ll be taking several unnecessary risks.
The sites that you’re seeing are based outside the country and are often referred to as offshore sites. One thing that you do not have when you play on an offshore site is any protection under US law. Offshore sites are not bound to use the same rules, laws, regulations and business practices as companies in the US. This means that you could find yourself on the wrong side of disputes or site decisions with no legal recourse.
Unlike US-based sites, there are no regulators or firm oversight to ensure that each provider is acting responsibly and legally. Even if a site is on the up-and-up, there could be another problem. Online gambling sites require you to submit personal and financial details to establish your account, meaning you must trust the offshore site’s security with your personal details. Even though you may be able to play on these sites for years without any issue, it’s simply not worth the risk. The downside is too great and goes well beyond losing a few hundred bucks.
Who regulates online gambling in Arkansas?
Online gambling is, for the most part, not legal in Arkansas. With that said, we have a pretty good idea who would regulate online gambling if it were ever to come to Arkansas. The Arkansas Racing Commission has licensing and regulatory authority over most of the gambling in the state, including racing and casino gambling. The only exception is charitable bingo and raffles. However, both the racing commission and charitable games fall under the purview of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. So, even if an online gambling expansion decided to vest a different or new agency with oversight, we’re confident that it would fall somewhere in this department of the state government.
What is the legal gambling age in Arkansas?
For the most part, 21. There’s no real surprise about the required ages to gamble in Arkansas. As is often the case in states with different types of gambling, the age requirement varies based upon the activity. If you want to participate in casino gambling in Arkansas, you must be 21 or older. However, you must only be 18 in order to place bets on races or play the Arkansas lottery.
Responsible gambling in Arkansas
Estimates vary, but 1% to 3% of all gamblers have or will develop a gambling problem from their play. What you can do in Arkansas is reach out to the National Council on Problem Gambling’s helpline at 1-800-522-4700. You can also send a text to this number or visit the live chat feature of the NCPG website. This service can help put you in touch with problem gambling resources in Arkansas, whatever they may be.
If you’d prefer a more group-oriented approach, there are some weekly meetings of Gamblers Anonymous in Arkansas that you can attend. These are meetings of other problem gamblers who are at various stages of recovery. Attendees can give you support, encouragement and suggestions about what techniques and strategies have worked for them. If you don’t want to drive to a meeting, then you can also find a similar community at the online forum Gamtalk.
Finally, one last option that you can use is self-exclusion. Self-exclusion is a voluntary database of gamblers who have agreed that they cannot stop gambling and that the only solution is to bar them from gambling locations. Placement on a self-exclusion list is usually at least a year, and can be permanent if the situation demands it. Arkansas law does require each gambling facility to provide self-exclusion resources. However, self-exclusion is usually a state-level list, rather than local, due to the law enforcement need. A person on the self-exclusion list who enters a casino property is considered a trespasser and will incur the appropriate legal consequences for that offense.
Types of legal gambling in Arkansas
Arkansas is proof that a state can change its gambling profile dramatically without too much hassle. Here are all the ways to gamble legally in Arkansas right now:
- Casino gambling
- Sports betting
- Pari-mutuel betting
- Online horse betting
- Daily fantasy sports
- Charitable bingo and raffles
Please note that, with the exception of horse betting and DFS, none of these options are available online. Obviously, there are no Arkansas online casinos.
One other omission you might have noticed on this list is home poker games and other types of social games that you can play with friends. Arkansas is one of only a few states to not allow games like poker or friendly bets outside of prescribed gambling locations. If you do want to play some cards with your buddies, you’ll have to take a road trip to the only legal Arkansas poker room, at the Saracen Casino Resort. However, depending on your proximity to Pine Bluff, it might be more convenient to visit poker rooms in nearby states, such as Louisiana, Oklahoma or Mississippi.
Are there casinos in Arkansas?
Yes, Arkansas is home to three casino locations. Two of the casinos began their lives as racetracks, with horse racing at Oaklawn and greyhounds at Southland. This means they are actually racinos, but both have full-service casinos onsite, with both slots and table games available. The third casino is a tribal location in Pine Bluff, the Saracen, the newest casino in the state. A fourth location, the River Valley Casino Resort, is under construction in Russellville and should open a temporary location sometime in 2021.
|Name||Address||Phone Number||Type||Owner/Operator||Live Poker?|
|Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort||2705 Central Ave, Hot Springs, AR 71901||(501) 623-4411||Racino||Oaklawn Jockey Club||No|
|River Valley Casino*||Russellville, AR||N/A||Casino||Gulfside Casino Partners||Unknown|
|Saracen Casino Resort||1 Saracen Resort Dr, Pine Bluff, AR 71601||(870) 686-9001||Tribal||Quapaw Nation||Yes|
|Southland Casino Racing||1550 North Ingram Blvd, West Memphis, AR 72301||(800) 467-6182||Racino||Delaware North||No|
* Under construction
Tribal casinos in Arkansas
There is only a single tribal casino in Arkansas, but it’s a good one. The Saracen Casino Resort offers slots, table games, and live poker onsite. Since Arkansas does not permit home poker, the poker room is the only place you can play cards in the entire state without looking over your shoulder.
In addition, the property features a truck stop, known as the Annex, that serves as an adjunct casino to the main gambling area. The Annex features 300 slot machines and a bar for travelers to relax for a bit.
Interestingly, the casino owner and operator is a tribe without a physical land presence in Arkansas. The Quapaw Nation calls Ottawa County in Oklahoma its home and is, at first glance, a curious choice to run the only tribal casino in Arkansas. However, the Quapaws were originally from present-day Arkansas. The tribe re-entered Arkansas by buying 160 acres south of Little Rock, becoming an undisputed landowner in the state. When the opportunity to build a casino in Jefferson County, where Quapaw Chief Saracen passed away in 1832 and is buried, arose in 2018, the Quapaw Nation jumped at the chance.
Types of games at Arkansas casinos
Arkansas gambling rules do not have any particular prohibitions regarding the kinds of games that you can play. The state rules list an extensive roster of games under their definitions for the word “game,” including several you may never have heard of. If anyone knows where we can find a good game of chuck-a-luck or seven-and-a-half, please let us know. Furthermore, the definition and several other state rules specify that the list of games is not meant to limit or shrink the list of acceptable games in the slightest. In other words, licensed gambling companies can host almost any game they can imagine, so long as the Arkansas Racing Commission deems it acceptable.
Arkansas has actually allowed slot machine-type games longer than lottery sales. Lawmakers passed Act 1151 into law in 2005 to allow the state’s racetracks to place what they called “electronic games of skill” onsite. The law defined these games as the following:
“Games played through any electronic device or machine that afford an opportunity for the exercise of skill or judgment when the outcome is not completely controlled by chance alone.”
Needless to say, many slot titles and the entire panoply of video poker games meet this definition. The tracks wasted no time in placing thousands of these machines onsite. Despite the offense that racing purists take at their presence, the machines have added billions of dollars to the Arkansas economy since their inception. Given that Southland is moving to become racing-free by 2022, the machines are not going away anytime soon.
Interestingly, there is one pointed prohibition that exists in the rules for slot machine manufacturers. Arkansas does not permit the introduction of games that possess any of the following traits or themes:
- Derived from a product targeted at people under 21.
- Depicts something obscene.
- Depicts something racist, sexist, misogynistic or otherwise offensive.
- Contains a theme “contrary to public policy of this state.”
So, in other words, slot machines need to be for adults, about adult things, but not all adult things. The Playboy slot is out, but so is the Simpsons game. Other states might maintain similar oversight powers, but we’ve rarely seen them spelled out as explicitly as they are in Arkansas. At any rate, here are the games you can find at Arkansas casinos.
- Video poker
- Mississippi Stud
- Ultimate Texas Hold’em
- Three Card Poker
- Super Four
- Louisiana Stud
- Jackpot Hold’em
- Live poker
- Sports betting
- Electronic table games
- Stadium table games
Not every game is available at each Arkansas casino. Make sure that you check your destination. Some of the games, like Super Four and Louisiana Stud, are regional variants that have slightly tweaked rules or special side bets. Simply ask your dealer to explain the rules.
Electronic table games, if you have never seen them, are large machines that automate the process of playing on a table game of the same type. The most common electronic table games you’ll find will be craps and roulette. Stadium table games are similar to these, but take place in an area that’s more similar to a movie theater than anything else. You play games while in a crowd and watch the progression of the game on huge screens. It can be a fun way to play and interact, so it may be worth a look, particularly if you always feel a bit lonely when you play.
Can you play slots online in Arkansas?
No. As is the case with every other mainstream type of gambling, you cannot play slots online in Arkansas. As a matter of fact, the default view about gambling in the eyes of Arkansas law is that all slot play is illegal, save for the exceptions the state has carved out in the past few years.
For the time being, the thing to do is play the slot titles that you can find on sweepstakes sites. Chumba Casino, LuckyLand Slots and Funzpoints all have slot games available at all hours of the day. They aren’t just clunky old-school games, either. You can find slots that rival any you’d find on a true online casino site. There are even progressive jackpot options where you can take a chance at scoring life-changing money.
Horse betting and racetracks in Arkansas
For the majority of its history, Arkansas’ only legal betting was pari-mutuel wagering on races. As befitting a state suspicious of most gambling, Arkansas has only two tracks inside state lines. However, low quantity doesn’t mean that quality must suffer.
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, which opened in Hot Springs in 1904, routinely appears in lists of the 10 best horse racing tracks in America. Famous horses like Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones significantly helped their resumes at Oaklawn. Its signature race, the Arkansas Derby, is similarly recognized as one of the most prestigious races in the US. It’s one of two Grade I races at the facility — the other is the Apple Blossom Handicap and its $1 million purse. Oaklawn also maintains a full-fledged casino, thanks to the aforementioned 2018 ballot measure.
Arkansas is also home to one of the few active greyhound racing facilities in the United States. Southland Casino Racing has been offering wagering on the dogs in West Memphis since 1956. However, greyhound racing has fallen out of favor with much of the public, betting or otherwise. Concerns over the treatment of the animals have led to declining numbers and banning of the practice in many states. Southland, buoyed by the revenue from its casino activities, voluntarily agreed to phase out its racing by the end of 2022. The slow reduction in race numbers is to avoid a glut of former racing dogs in need of adoption. Southland is also now a sports betting location and is in the process of building a $250 million casino and hotel complex.
- Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, 2705 Central Ave., Hot Springs, AR 71901
- Southland Casino Racing, 1550 North Ingram Blvd., West Memphis, AR 72301
There are no true off-track betting facilities in Arkansas. The only permitted facilities must be on the grounds of the track itself, per the racing commission’s rules governing the activity. However, Arkansans and visitors to the state are more than welcome to bet on horse races around the country through online horse betting sites. Arkansas is one of a majority of states that permits inhabitants to access simulcast betting on sites like TVG and TwinSpires.
History of gambling in Arkansas
For the most part, the history of gambling in Arkansas is a short story. Aside from the state’s affinity for high quality horse racing and (up until recently) watching dogs chase a mechanical animal around a track, there wasn’t much in the way of gambling in the state. However, that has all changed. Arkansas has turned itself around on gambling in a major way since 2005. You’ll find sports betting, casino gambling, poker, DFS, lottery games and horse betting. While many of these options are not available online at present, Arkansas has shown that it has no problem making big changes. Here are the biggest dates in Arkansas gambling history so far.
Oaklawn Park Race Track opens for business to a crowd of 3,000 people. The early days of the track feature six races per day, mirroring the track experience in Great Britain at the time. However, the track opens at a time when betting on racing was in a bit of a gray area for Arkansas. Oaklawn shutters and reopens several times until 1929, when a razor-thin majority of lawmakers finally legalizes pari-mutuel wagering on racing. The first Arkansas Derby takes place in 1936 and quickly becomes one of the richest and most prestigious horse races in the country. Oaklawn’s horse racing is joined by Southland Park’s greyhound racing in 1956, and until 2005, betting on these races is the only way to gamble legally in Arkansas.
Lawmakers expand the gambling options available at the state’s two racing facilities. They pass Act 1151, which authorizes the tracks to offer “electronic games of skill.” The tracks jump on the new opportunity, and Arkansans are able to gamble on slot machines in their home state even before they could buy lottery tickets.
For Arkansas residents, the option to play in a lottery comes three years later. Lt. Gov. Bill Halter campaigned in 2006 on the idea of an Arkansas lottery and applied maximum pressure to make it a reality as soon as he took office. He finally got his wish in 2008 when Proposed Amendment 3 makes it onto the general election ballot. The amendment passes with 62% of the vote and sets the stage for the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery. The new lottery funds education scholarships for Arkansans, and has reportedly contributed more than $1 billion to that effort in the years since.
The next gambling expansion to occur in the Natural State is a small one. Act 1075 of the 2017 session makes playing daily fantasy sports legal in Arkansas by declaring that the activity is not gambling under state law. Arkansas is one of only a handful of states to authorize DFS officially under its laws. So long as the contests pertain only to professional matches and games, any site can offer paid fantasy contests inside the state. As gambling expansion goes, it is a minor shift, and does not portend the cataclysm that comes a year and a half later.
Few states can point to a single year as a revolution for their gambling profile, but Arkansas can. Fifty-four percent of Arkansas voters approve Issue 4 on the November ballot, which contains the following:
- Oaklawn and Southland can now offer almost any casino game.
- Two new casinos are authorized for Jefferson and Pope counties.
- Onsite sports betting is legal as part of the expansion.
Less than a year later, the first sports bet in Arkansas history occurs in July 2019 at Oaklawn. Southland would follow a few months later, along with a temporary version of the new Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff. The fourth facility, River Valley Casino, remains under construction in Russellville. What a change a few years can make.