Arkansas Guide To Legal Gambling

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Updates And Highlights From Arkansas Gaming News

Arkansas flag renderingArkansas is a state known for its natural beauty and producing former President Bill Clinton.

It is also a state solidly in the geographical and cultural South, sharing borders with Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana. As such, there are no abundant opportunities for gambling within the state at the moment.

This fall, however, the voting public will decide whether or not to maintain the status quo.

A proposed constitutional amendment from advocacy group Driving Arkansas Forward aims to legalize full-scale gambling and sports betting in the state. The measure also includes approval for two new casinos flanking Little Rock.

Voters will see the proposal listed as Issue 4 on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Online gambling

Arkansas’s gambling laws are quite broad and restrictive. Even home poker games are problematic.

As such, no online gaming can take place aside from the electronic machines at the state’s two racetracks. These electronic machines function more-or-less as slot machines, but some of them are pooled and otherwise communicate online, so they would technically be online gaming.

However, as in many other states, there is limited online gambling allowed under the umbrella of legalized gambling — in this case, the racetracks themselves. Due to 2013’s SB 329, Arkansas residents and visitors are permitted to wager on racing at either facility through mobile devices or other internet connections.

Social casino options

With only two options for live gambling in Arkansas, it seems unlikely there would be social casinos with tie-ins to either option. However, Southland Park does offer its own social casino – Lucky North Casino. This app can be played on both mobile devices and traditional internet connections.

Other than that, all the typical options are available in Arkansas. Slotomania, Big Fish, Double Down Casino, and Zynga are playable through mobile devices or Facebook.

One final option is MyVegas. MyVegas is the MGM Resorts platform that allows players to earn loyalty points, which are then redeemable for real-world comps at partner properties.

Arkansans, particularly in the eastern part of the state, are close enough to take advantage of this opportunity at the Gold Strike Casino in Tunica, Mississippi. However, due to the restrictive nature of Arkansas’s gaming laws, please consult with law enforcement before redeeming this kind of award, as it could possibly be interpreted as actual gambling.

State casino operator history

Arkansas, by and large, is not a gambler’s state. The broad nature of its gambling statutes makes any type of monetary gain from wagering illegal, including home poker games.

The only reliable places to gamble in the state are the two racetracks: Oaklawn Racing & Gaming in Hot Springs and Southland Park Gaming in West Memphis.

Oaklawn Racing & Gaming has been a fixture of horse racing in Arkansas since 1904. The facility is the home of the $1 million Arkansas Derby. Races are run at the track between January and April, and it is one of the top tracks in the nation. Many Triple Crown competitors race at Oaklawn.

Interestingly, the racing began prior to their legalization. Pari-mutuel wagering was not acceptable in Arkansas until 1935, when Gov. Junius M. Futrell signed a bill to legalize the practice. The following year was the inaugural Arkansas Derby, which featured a $5,000 purse in 1936.

The widespread legalization of casinos in neighboring states like Louisiana and Mississippi led to declining attendance at the park in the 1990s. In 1999, as a means of relief, the state legislature allowed the introduction of “instant racing” — electronic machines that allow players to wager on past races.

The electronic gaming expanded further in 2005, when the legislature allowed the introduction of “games of skill,” which paved the way for slot machines and video poker. Further expansions put live wagering into the facility. Oaklawn now boasts a poker room, blackjack, craps, roulette, slot machine-type games, and video poker.

The other location for gaming in Arkansas is Southland Park Gaming. Southland Park is a greyhound racing facility. The track opened its doors in 1956, and runs 6,000 races per year.

Unlike many racing facilities, Southland Park operates live racing year-round. The increasing demand led to the installation of an underground heating system beneath the track, thus allowing dogs to race without ill effects from the cold. It is the only greyhound track in the country to feature a million-dollar race day.

Like Oaklawn, Southland Park also offers live gaming to patrons. Roulette, craps, blackjack, and other table games are available. Over 1,900 slot machine-type games await. The facility features a dedicated poker room. There are even opportunities for high-limit gaming.

For a state that does not abide much in the way of gambling, there are two comprehensive options available for most Arkansas residents’ needs. Arkansas also authorized a state lottery in 2008, which allows its people to participate in some of the large multi-state drawings like Mega Millions and Powerball.

Arkansans also can travel short distances to neighboring states. The casino meccas of Tunica, Mississippi, and Shreveport, Louisiana, are within three hours drive from Little Rock. Casinos dot the border regions of Arkansas in every direction except north. All in all, most Arkansans are not suffering from a lack of options.

Land-based casinos

Property Location Games Offered
Oaklawn Racing and Gaming Hot Springs S, C, BJ, R, P, OTB
Southland Park Gaming and Racing West Memphis S, C, BJ, R, P, OTB

*Slots (S), Craps (C), Blackjack (BJ), Roulette (R), Baccarat (B), Poker (P), Mini-Baccarat (MBac), Pai Gow Poker (PGP), Pai Gow Tiles (PGT), Let It Ride (LR), Caribbean Stud Poker (CS), Crazy 4 Poker (C4), 3 Card Poker (3C), 4 Card Poker (4C), Ultimate Texas Hold’em (UTH), High Card Flush (HCF), Mississippi Stud (MS), Texas Hold’em Bonus (THB), Big Six Wheel (B6), Bingo (BI), Keno (K), Off-track Betting (OTB), Casino War (CW), Money Wheel (MW), Spanish 21 (S21), Sic Bo (SB), Wheel of Fortune (WF), Sports Betting (SB)

State legal environment

  Permitted/Offered? Notes & Restrictions
Land-Based Gambling Yes Only at two racinos
Online Gambling No
Lottery Yes
Charitable or House-Based Gambling Yes Bingo only; no home poker or anything similar
Minimum Gambling Age 18 for horseracing and lottery; 21 for slots and games


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