Online Gambling For Real Money in Arkansas

Arkansas used to have the most gambling in the country at one time, and while a long dry period followed this as far as gambling goes, casino gambling in Arkansas is making a comeback now. The people of Arkansas have voted to allow land-based casinos in the state now, which is in the process of being rolled out. Looking at regulating online gambling is next for the state to consider, but as they do, Arkansans need to realize that they can already participate in these things now.

Arkansas Online Gambling – An Introduction

Arkansas has had an interesting gambling history, where they have gone from being the gambling capital of the country at one point in earlier times, to a period where gambling nearly disappeared, to their recent more progressive movement toward opening it back up.

Arkansas used to have 10 large casinos in the state at one time, and while they will soon have 4 of them, they are at least making their way back to where they once were. We will take a look at what they had, what they have now, and what they have now that many may think that they do not have yet.

History of Gambling in Arkansas

Arkansas Online Casinos and SlotsIn a state that has just recently allowed real money casino gambling, you might think that Arkansas is one of those states that have been against gambling all along. When people consider the gambling capitals of the country, Arkansas does not normally come to mind, unless you know a little history.

Gambling used to be rampant in Arkansas in the 19th century, back in the days when saloons ruled the gambling world and many a game was settled by a gun. Gangsters were prominent in Arkansas during that era, running both gambling and liquor operations, and the people of the day could find plenty of both.

In the 1920’s, Arkansas gambling peaked. Well before Las Vegas or even before they even had legal gambling in Nevada, Hot Springs, Arkansas was the gambling capital of the United States. This small town boasted 10 large casinos and many smaller ones back in the 1920’s, and while gambling was offered elsewhere in the country at that time, there was nothing even close to the gambling Mecca of Hot Springs.

This bonanza continued for several decades. In 1947, the state started to interfere with legal and regulatory attacks that continued for 20 years until Hot Springs was finally completely taken down in 1967. The naysayers had won, for now anyway, and it would take over 40 years for the people to finally decide to allow casino gambling again.

1967 saw gambling in Arkansas shut down period, save for the pari-mutuel betting that the state had approved all the way back in 1929 by a single vote. The Oaklawn racetrack in, you guessed it, Hot Springs, has been in operation ever since. Arkansas also has a dog track, Southland Park, that has been offering pari-mutuel greyhound races since 1956.

It wasn’t until 2005 that Arkansas had another form of gambling legal again to go along with the lone survivor of the 1967 ban, pari-mutuel betting, when Arkansas legalized betting on games of skill. This allowed its racetracks to offer gaming machines that were in accordance with this new law, hybrids of live dealer and electronic gambling machines. This wasn’t quite real money casino games, but it was at least something else besides betting on horse and dog races.

Arkansas still didn’t have charitable bingo yet, nor social gambling, and while social gambling is still against the law, this only carries a maximum fine of $25 which may not be enough of a penalty to keep people from playing. However, in 2007, charity bingo finally became legal in Arkansas.

Arkansas still didn’t have a lottery, but two years later, in 2009, the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery sold their first tickets. Arkansas was one of the last states to create a state lottery, and even had to dress up the name by adding the word scholarship to finally become comfortable enough about doing it.

A good cause can make something that you are at least somewhat reluctant with more palatable, which is the reason why charitable gaming is seen as being a more favorable form of gambling. Arkansas even has a graduation cap built into the logo of its lottery, presumably to weaken people’s reluctance.

2017 saw the state explicitly state that fantasy sports do not constitute gambling under existing state law, and are indeed contests and not wagers in the way we normally define them. There are plenty of states that have tried to claim these games are under their gambling law when they do not ban games of skill, and these are pure contests of skill.

The latest road mark on the journey toward opening up gambling in Arkansas came in 2018, when a referendum was passed to allow a very limited amount of casino gambling. Four licenses may not be much, but it is a start.

Arkansas Key Facts

  • Abbreviation: AR
  • State Motto: Regnat populus (The People Rule)
  • Capital City: Little Rock
  • Largest City: Little Rock
  • Population Estimate: 3 Million (33rd)
  • Website: www.arkansas.gov

Arkansas Gambling Laws

Arkansas gambling laws contain a preamble that specifically and clearly instruct that their prohibitions are to be construed liberally, where in cases of uncertainty, the decision is to favor the prohibition.

We might wonder why they didn’t just write the law that way, just by clearly prohibiting all forms of gambling, but Arkansas did that as well, and the preamble was put there to make sure that they didn’t take any chances in someone not understanding the concept of all gambling prohibited.

State gambling laws can be carelessly written though, unclear enough to give the entire decision of whether a particular form of gambling applies over to the judge, where fine distinctions may scuttle laws. It’s not hard to write clear enough laws, and Arkansas gambling law, at least as far as land-based gambling goes, is a fine example of this.

Arkansas even adds a lot of extra and meaningless baggage to their real money gambling laws, such as feeling the need to list a number of card games, some of which are not even played anymore, as a seeming addition to all card games are prohibited. They even make the distinction between named and unnamed card games, in case someone got the idea that not naming a card game made it something other than a card game.

One might claim that the law only prohibits games of cards using actual cards, and not just graphic representations of them with no co-ordinates in the physical world, where online poker may be understood to be excluded. The law didn’t say games using cards, they ban card games, and poker happens to be a card game regardless of whether real cards are used or not.

Every form of card game possible is prohibited by Arkansas law, where a fine of between $10 and $25 will be due upon conviction. For a state that went to so much trouble to lock the door on the idea that staking anything of value on a game of cards would be legal, the very small penalty makes this look more like telling you that this is against the law with a wink, given the risk of getting prosecuted is so low and the punishment is so light.

Arkansas separately goes after each of the three forms of gambling, and next turn to casino gambling. Once again, they add a number of examples, adding a touch of nostalgia with their list of 19th century gambling games, all included in the general prohibition of gambling devices, named or unnamed, of any sort.

It’s a crime to bet at any of these devices, and the fine goes up from what poker costs you, being left to pay $50 to $100. As tight as this looks to be in shutting out casino games, Arkansas’ reliance on gambling devices does result in some real problems when applied to online casino gambling, and whether or not this involves the use of any gambling device is a very open question.

It turns out that Arkansas’ listing of these old games might shed a little light on the matter, as these are all devices designed for a specific purpose, to play the gambling game it is set up to let you do. Gambling devices don’t necessarily need to be completely used for gambling, as they could be used as a drink tray or anything, but they need to be designed for the purpose of gambling to qualify.

The devices that we use to gamble online are general purpose devices, whose normal use includes the multitude of the things you can do online, and are in no real sense gambling devices. Devices used to gamble has a whole different meaning.

Now we know why they put the preamble in, but this is not a distinction that should appear in any way unclear such that we would be in a reasonable position to lean one way or the other. Armed with a weapon like this though, judges who find themselves leaning toward prohibition could do things such as assume the intent of the law was to ban this form of gambling or other means to provide at least a façade to back their decision.

Land-based gambling all involve clear gambling devices and this part has been shut out completely. Who knew about online gambling in the days when the game of faro was king though?

Arkansas doesn’t forget about sports betting, which merits its own section, bets on “games of hazard or skill.” Bets on games of skill takes care of sports betting by itself, as sports are indeed games of skill between the participants in the game. The intent of the inclusion of “hazard” is not made clear, but just in case someone wanted to understand sports betting as betting on a hazard will now be disappointed.

This takes care of the online side as well, as you bet on games of skill or hazard when you place any sports bet through any means or channel. Your doing this over the internet versus face to face is therefore of no material difference. This one will cost you $10 to $25, and we now see that Arkansas doesn’t mind poker or sports betting all that much, but isn’t so relatively fond of casino games with the much higher fines they invoke.

This is a pretty stiff set of laws overall, and to find any gambling that occurs in the state outside the scope of its prohibitions would be quite a challenge. The fact that Arkansas manages their gambling offenses in such a regulatory manner, similar to handing our parking tickets, does show that the apparent reluctance that they have toward gambling lacks much depth.

We have already seen a big change in Arkansas’ approach to gambling, with the approval of a limited amount of casino gambling to go along with their pari-mutuel betting, their lottery, and charitable gambling. The movement toward reform is well underway.

Land-Based Gambling in Arkansas

Arkansas used to be a huge land-based gambling hub, but as the resistance toward it grew over the years, the state eventually shut them down and banned them in 1967. They still hung on to their pari-mutuel racetracks though, and have both a horse and dog track that allow patrons to wager on these contests.

Oaklawn Park was around when Arkansas legalized pari-mutuel betting, in 1929, as it had been offering horse races since 1904 and now had a chance to make money on people gambling on them. It’s now known as the Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort. Southland Casino Racing started as Southland Park in 1956 as the state’s sole greyhound track.

Having the word casino in the title of the places does tell us that you do more than just bet on horses or dogs there. Both racetracks were already offering gaming machines based upon skill when the new law allowing casinos was passed, and they both were given one of the four licenses that the state handed out.

The other two are brand new from the ground up, and these things take time to build, but Arkansas’ racetracks were ready from the start, and moved right to slots and casino table games. These are real casinos that also happen to offer racing.

Arkansas didn’t just legalize casino games at these licensed establishments in 2018, they also now permit them to offer sports betting as well. The Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort offers 1,000 slots, 14 casino table games, and sports betting to its lineup of live horse racing. Southland Casino Racing is in the midst of a $250 million expansion with a larger casino and a hotel, with 2,400 slot machines, 60 table games, and sports betting. Greyhound racetracks also do not normally come with 20 story hotels.

Arkansas already has one of its two other licensees in operation, including the Saracen Casino Resort, the state’s only native-run casino. This license wasn’t given to them by the federal government by way of the Indian Gaming Act, as the Quapow Tribe won this license in open bidding. It features 2,000 slots and 35 table games.

The $254 million River Valley Casino Resort will open in two stages, and eventually have 2,100 slot machines and 100 table games when the project is completed in 2022. These are by no means small casinos and Arkansas is at least not shy on size when it comes to the casinos they have allowed, like they are with their number.

Beyond the state’s racinos and casinos, there isn’t much, with only the state lottery and charitable gambling being left. Social gambling is not allowed, but the fines are light.

  • List of Land Based Casinos in Arkansas
    CasinoAddressPhone
    Saracen Casino Resort1 Saracen Resort Drive, Pine Bluff, AR 71601870-686-9001
    Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort2705 Central Ave, Hot Springs, AR 71901501-623-4411
    Southland Casino Racing1550 North Ingram Blvd, West Memphis, AR 72301800-467-6182

Arkansas Online Casinos & Slots Gambling

Arkansas only got back into the mainstream of real money gambling fairly recently, and haven’t quite made it to the world of regulated online gambling as of yet. They did come close, as allowing online sports betting was originally included in the plan of legalizing sports betting, but in the end, the online portion of this was dropped, leaving only land-based sports betting to go through.

This at least tells us that Arkansas may not be all that far away from having at least online sports betting, given how close they came the last time. Views have to shift enough before certain forms of gambling are seen as acceptable, and the view in Arkansas does need to shift at least a little more.

When a state does not regulate online gambling and people still wish to play, this does not stop them from doing it, it only prevents them from doing it at a state’s own sites. The internet has brought the world together, where you can now travel to other countries at the speed of light, to be both there and here at the same time. These virtual visits are real, and involve real money online gambling at whatever game we wish to gamble on.

The key to an online gambling site’s existence is being able to operate within the law where it is located, and there are many places that allow online gambling sites to not only operate legally but under their regulation as well.

You step outside the view of state authorities when you gamble online, so whether or not real money casino games or poker or sports betting are legal or not is a moot point really, given that we are not speaking of a law that it is even possible to enforce in the real world.

The real answer to whether or not Arkansas has real money online gambling is that they have had access to these things all along, and it’s just that none of these sites are regulated by the Arkansas government.

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Future of Gambling in Arkansas

Prior to 2018, we could have looked around the country and saw Arkansas be way behind in the movement toward opening up gambling that has been sweeping around the country in recent years. They did have pari-mutuel, as well as electronic games of skill, and a lottery, but not a single casino slot or table game or legal sports bet, online or otherwise.

Arkansas made a big move up the ladder that year, legalizing both full-service casino gambling as well as sports betting. Sure, they only started with 4 licenses, but jumping in with both feet from a qualitative standpoint is a bigger issue than how far they want to spread this.

They ordered the full meal, even though they are using so few dishes to have it served out on. These are impressive operations and well stand out as far as the size and quality of casinos that a state may have.

This leap in acceptance of gambling also shows some very good momentum toward more, as when you go from a conservative approach to a much more liberal one at the stroke of a pen, the tide has really shifted and may continue to do so.

Land-based options are completely based upon a state’s appetite for it, save for perhaps the tribal casinos, which Arkansas does not have. Land-based gamblers have no choice but to wait for more casino licenses to be issued and for more casinos to be built to enjoy more land-based gambling in the state.

The online world is an entirely different one, where physical barriers are completely removed as real money online gambling sites from across the world compete for your business. This future of Arkansas gambling is already here for the taking, where many Arkansas gamblers have been enjoying poker, casino, and sports betting for years, and continue to do so.

There are some benefits to having state regulated online gambling, as it opens up the full range of deposit and withdrawal options that players used to enjoy, but that’s about the only real difference, aside from the need for you to navigate the world of online gambling yourself rather than have your state pick the best sites for you.

You do need someone to help you here, to point you toward the good sites and away from the not so good ones, and learning lessons from others is always better than paying the price yourself for this. Follow us to the best the internet has to offer for Arkansas players.

Arkansas Online Slots & Casinos FAQs
  • Did Arkansas start out as a state not that in favor of gambling?

    Arkansas may have ended up being a very conservative state when it comes to gambling, but they sure did not start out that way. For much of its history Arkansas was a hotbed of gambling, from the wild saloon games in the frontier days to having the most large casinos in the country in Arkansas’ gambling heyday. This was a big gambling state that ended up just changing their minds.

  • What caused Arkansas to change direction with their view of gambling?

    Gambling in Arkansas was historically limited to the small city of Hot Springs, and as time wore on, the battle became between them and the rest of the state, who had become more and more resistant to the idea of casinos in their state. A major battle was won in 1947 when operators started being taken down, and after 20 years of this, the state declared victory and banned all casino gambling.

  • What did this new gambling law ban?

    Arkansas’ 1967 anti-gambling law cast a very big net over all forms of gambling. Casino games that rely on gambling devices got banned. Playing card games for money also became against the law, even in private with no one other than the players benefiting. Sports betting was also outlawed. Even charitable gambling was against the law during this dark phase in the state’s history.

  • Did any of Arkansas’ gambling survive this ban?

    Even though the axe ended up falling on almost all forms of real money gambling in Arkansas, the pari-mutuel betting that had been going on since the state legalized this in 1929 remained in place. However strongly Arkansas may have felt about their opposition to gambling, even in the darkest times, people will still allowed to wager on dog and horse races held in the state. The state has always treated this form of gambling with special favor.

  • What improvements has Arkansas made in the last few years?

    In 2005, the state jumped in to come to the aid of both their pari-mutuel tracks by offering them an opportunity to offer skill-based electronic gambling machines. 2007 saw Arkansas allow charitable gambling. In 2009, they finally got their first state lottery. 2018 was a huge year for the state as they passed a referendum allowing for large scale casino gambling, which hit the ground running.

  • Has Arkansas legalized sports betting yet?

    In addition to finally allowing casino gambling in the state again, Arkansas also made sports betting legal, where the state’s 2 newly licensed casinos were allowed to offer it, as well as the two yet to be built. One of these two new casinos is already up and running, with another expected to be completed by 2022. Arkansas’ gambling scene has come a very long way just since 2018, and will soon grow even bigger.

  • Does Arkansas have regulated real money online gambling yet?

    In seeking to roll out sports betting, Arkansas seriously toyed with the idea of offering online sports betting as well, which would have been a first for the state. However, the online side of this sports betting bill fell through. It’s not that online sports betting didn’t come to Arkansas though, it’s rather that Arkansas didn’t get into the business to provide their own options to what players already have.

  • Is it legal to gamble online in Arkansas?

    It is against Arkansas law to play poker for real money online or to beat real money on sporting contests. Fantasy sports betting is allowed though, but the state doesn’t consider it betting, and it isn’t. There’s no good reason to believe playing real money casino games online is illegal but still could risk conviction. The good news is that the fines are very small and there’s no way to catch you doing this anyway.

  • What are the prospects of gambling opening up even more soon?

    There is nothing on the horizon right now as far as the gambling market in Arkansas being opened up even more anytime soon, but given how quickly Arkansas went from virtually nothing to a whole lot, we could see more big changes come pretty quickly as well. Completely opening things up to all forms of online gambling may be years away, but the future is now among those who simply choose to gamble online all they want anyway.

  • Can Arkansas players gamble online now if they wish?

    The only things that you need to gamble online all you want right now, at either online poker, casino, or sports betting, is the desire to do so, an internet connection, a little money to play with, and the right guidance. We’re here to support you in the guidance department, where we offer you our expert picks as far as the best places for Arkansas online gamblers to enjoy all of their favorite games at and be taken care of very well while doing it.

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Associate Writer: Suzie has extensive experience writing on a number of different topics, but writing on slots remains her first love, and it really shows.