Finding itself in America’s Heartland, and right next door to the largest state in the union, Arkansas is another state in the middle of the country that loves to gamble. The population of the state is not very high (not surprising considering the state location and its types of industry), but what the state lacks in people it more than makes up for in character, and love of their sports teams. While there is no professional sports team in Arkansas, the college teams are the main focus, and the basketball and football teams have had long runs of success at the top level.
Gambling in Arkansas has been a challenge for those residents that like to be entertained with a few bets here and there. Thankfully, the state has had some recent changes take place that should pave the way for more gaming in the state in the coming years. Let’s take a look at the current state of legalized gambling in Arkansas.
Sports Betting in Arkansas
Arkansas has been one of the most conservative of all the states when it comes to gambling regulations. In fact, it is one of the only states that made for-money pools like those you all play for March Madness to be illegal. Now, there wasn’t much in the way of prosecution for these things, but you can imagine how slow a state like Arkansas may move into regulated sports betting.
With the repeal of PASPA in 2018, however, it appeared that the government of Arkansas may be shifting its thought on gaming in the state. Rather than rushing into writing laws like some of the other states around them in the spring of 2018, Arkansas instead put the expansion of gambling in the state in the hands of the people. In November 2018, residents of the state passed the measure in a vote, meaning that there would not only be an expansion of land-based casinos but that sports betting would also be legal in the state.
To date, only one property, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, has been granted a sports betting license, so it is the only location in the state currently taking wagers. It opened for business on July 1, 2019 making Arkansas the 9th state to take legal sports bets.
Online Sports Betting
Strangely, Arkansas residents did not vote to pass regulations that would allow for mobile and online sports betting within their state when they passed the rest of the gaming expansion. This puts a significant crimp in the growth of betting in Arkansas. With only one retail sportsbook open at this stage, and no way to bet from your computer or mobile device, it will be very difficult to convince many residents to place wagers.
However, after reviewing the impact that online and mobile sports betting has had on the tax revenues in states that have offered it since day one like New Jersey, where over 80% of the bets are placed online, the Arkansas government may consider stepping in and introducing an amendment to the current legislation to allow for these channels to be opened. There is no question that the initial revenue numbers in Arkansas are meager as a result of not having mobile, and there will be questions about why the state didn’t push harder to give residents what they want while also finding a way to generate more tax dollars.
Horse Betting in Arkansas
Horse racing is steeped in tradition in Arkansas. You can understand why if you ever travel to the state – its wide open spaces make it easy to build and operate farms, which means that many horses are bred and trained around the state.
There are two racetracks operating in the state. The first is Oaklawn Park, which has a rich history in the horse racing world. This track hosts the Arkansas Derby, which is the largest horse race in the state – it has a seven-figure purse. The other racetrack in Arkansas is the greyhound track Southland, which runs races all year long in both the daytime and the evening.
From a betting perspective, anyone who heads to either of these tracks will not only be able to bet on the races being run at the facility, but also on races from across the country via simulcast in the racebook. This gives players a chance to bet on a race almost all day depending on what is being run in each time zone.
Online Horse Betting
Unlike many other states where racetracks are not allowed to offer their own online betting site, Arkansas residents can bet with the Oaklawn Park online betting site. This site gives players who create an account the option of betting on Oaklawn races or others across the country. Bettors can also see the races on the site so they can stay on top of the action.
There are other betting options as well, including the Twinspires site owned by Churchill Downs. The management of Oaklawn Park take exception to outside operators poaching their potential customers, but for now, there are no restrictions on anyone in Arkansas betting with Twinspires or any other Arkansas-facing betting sites, including unregulated sportsbooks.
Casino Gambling in Arkansas
Casino gambling had been frowned upon in Arkansas for many years. There were no legal forms of casino games to be found in the state until 2005 when the Local Option Horse Racing and Greyhound Racing Electronic Games of Skill Act was passed into law. This allowed for electronic skill games to be added to the floors of the two racetracks. With no tribal casinos in Arkansas, this is the only option for land-based casino gaming in the state.
The referendum that the residents of Arkansas voted in favor of in 2018 also included wording that would allow not only for casino games to be expanded at the racetracks but would open up two more casino licenses to go out to bid. This is a massive step in the right direction for the state, and we will see more gaming sites and options for residents in the coming years.
Online Casinos in Arkansas
Even though the measure passed in November 2018 to allow for an expansion of land-based gambling in the state, there is no discussion at all about allowing online caisno games to be played by residents. Given how slow the state is moving on mobile and online sports betting, it is highly unlikely there will be any change to this position in the near future. For now, residents of Arkansas do have the option of playing with an offshore site, but as we have mentioned time and again, we cannot endorse this activity as it comes with a series of potential risks that are not found in a regulated gaming environment.
Lottery in Arkansas
A sure sign of the conservative approach to gaming in Arkansas can be seen in the shocking fact that there wasn’t legal lottery gaming in the state until 2009. At that time, the Arkansas Sponsorship Lottery was born, giving players from the state to enter the huge draws like Powerball and Mega Millions. The proceeds of this lottery go towards improving education options for young people in the state.
Arkansas Gambling FAQ
Is sports betting legal in Arkansas?
Sports betting has been legal since November 2018 when the residents voted on a measure to allow betting in the state. However, as of December 2019, there is only one physical location in the state where you can place bets on your favorite sports teams, and there is no indication when any more facilities will open.
When will online sports betting be legal in Arkansas?
It is difficult to say with certainty when you will be able to make sports bets from a mobile device in Arkansas. It seems that residents weren’t keen for it when they voted back in 2018, but with dwindling numbers and the emergence of mobile betting as the leader in generating revenue and handle in other states, it is in the best interest of the state government to review this policy and make adjustments as soon as possible.
What is the best sportsbook for Arkansas?
With no regulated online sportsbooks in Arkansas, we do not recommend any of the offshore sites. However, if you should choose to take the risk and play with one of these sites, then we recommend reading as many reviews as possible to ensure you find the site that offers you the safest option for your hard-earned money.