The year 2020 has been difficult for the sports bettors with the suspension of major leagues for over three months. But the good news, is that professional sports in America has resumed, and along with it the progression of sports betting reformation. In particular, Arkansas has moved forward with legalizing sports betting AND WITH regulating.
As a result, at the time of writing, there are three sports retail outlets:
- Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in partnership with SBTech
- Saracen Casino Annex in partnership with IGT
- Southland Casino Racing in partnership with Betly
(Please note: the constitution, only allows for four licenses, so there can only be one more retail outlet to join the above three.)
Residents of Arkansas, can now place sport bets at a retail outlet in person!
There continues to be no local online or mobile sport book operators, but there are legitimate offshore sports book providers.
Arkansas Online Betting
Arkansas legalized sports betting onshore in November 2018 and approved regulations in February 2019. So, the good news is that local residents can place a sports bet onshore, however, currently it must be in-person at the three casinos mentioned in the introduction.
Yet to be available, is the regulation of mobile and online sports betting.
Therefore, if you wish to place a bet, your only option is to physically travel to a casino, OR you can bet online at an offshore Arkansas sports book.
It’s often misunderstood, but to be clear betting online is legal as a sport bettor, but NOT as a sports book operator within the borders of the state. Therefore all online sports books that accept Arkansas residents and visitors are located offshore. Commonly, they are established in the Caribbean or Central America and specifically cater for Americans. Legally they are able to do this, with the loose interpretation of the Wire Act. Also, since they are outside the borders of America (and of course Alabama) local laws do NOT apply to them.
Therefore these offshore sport books are legitimate and many Americans have been playing with them since the online betting began.
Opening an Online Sports Book Account
Betting online requires you to open an account deposit money, and maintain a balance with an internet bookmaker.
An online betting account acts as a special purpose bank account where you place bets from your balance. If you win, your balance will be credited and go up, if you lose your balance will go down. And if you balance lands at zero, you will need to make another deposit if you want to continue to place further bets.
If you’re winning more that you’re losing and your balance grows, you can request a withdrawal and the bookmaker will send you the amount you requested. Please note: withdrawal amounts are often capped at a minimum and transfers usually are limited to wire transfers or via bitcoin.
Arkansas Sports Gambling Laws
The US has a complex array and ambiguous set of laws, let alone for sports gambling. Historically Federal gambling laws prevented sport book makers from accepting bets. It’s commonly misunderstood, that this also meant that it was illegal for a person to place a sports bet. However, this is incorrect. Placing a bet in Arkansas is legal and has always been, but the legality of operating a sports book (and facilitating a transaction for betting) is a different story.
Before going on to explain why you are permitted (and have always been) to place a sports bet, I want to call out that I do not have a law background (let alone be a qualified lawyer). The following is my honest interpretation of Arkansas and Federal gambling laws.
My intention is not to encourage you to break any laws. If you have any doubt, please seek a second opinion, or please stop reading now, because I would rather that you have the peace of mind that you have not broken any laws.
The below is not professional advice, but the opinion of a fan of sports betting.
Federal Gambling Laws
Back in the day when gangsters were becoming structured, organized crime was burgeoning. The 19050’s saw a period of illegal activities led by the mafia, activities that soon began to spread into sports betting. Sports betting is an industry that is susceptible to exploitation by criminals. The government recognized this, and therefore introduced the Organized Crime Act which restricted bookmakers to the following rules:
- Limited to a maximum of $2,000 in sports bets
- Limited to a maximum of five bettors per sports book
This law set the precedence of imposing on the sport book operator, rather than the sports bettor.
The Wire Act of 1961 followed due to the maturing of telephony. The telephone allowed for the expansion of sport books accepting more bets. The Wire Act of 1961, curbed the number of bets that could be accepted through telephony. It basically targeted sports bookmakers from accepting unlimited bets through the telephone. It did not prevent the bettor from placing a bet.
Then in the 1990’s, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was passed into law and pretty much decimated the US sports betting industry (except for Nevada). The catalyst for this law came due to the uncovering of college sports betting scandals. Though (in hindsight), the scandals related to small amounts being put on risk, such as sports shoes, and other gifts, the Federal government wielded its power and prohibited each State from regulating and operating sports gambling to generate tax revenue.
The Federal Law, that came in force regarding gambling occurred in 2006. The early 2000s saw the boom of online poker. A conservative lawmaker who disagreed with the concept of online poker, introduced the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act by covertly attaching it to an anti-terrorism bill. Most legislators were unaware of the attached UIGEA, and thus once the anti terrorism were passed so too was UIGEA.
The UIGEA is ambiguous at best, but it attempts to prohibit banks from processing transactions that relate to offshore casinos and sport books.
As with previous, Federal sport gambling laws, this did not make it illegal to place a sports bet, but it did make it extremely inconvenient.
In summary Federal Laws were designed to make operating a sports book illegal (except in Nevada). It did not make it illegal for everyday local to place a sports bet.
Therefore offshore sports betting sites, were legal for bettors to place a wager on from Arkansas (or any State in the US).
Arkansas State Gambling Laws
In May 2018, the Supreme Court surprisingly overturned the PASPA that was introduced to prevent individual states from establishing their own sports gambling laws. This allowed each state to then consider gambling laws (if they wished), and in the case of Arkansas not only included reformation of sport betting but casino games as well.
Arkansas was quick out of blocks, also in May 2018, the Attorney General, Leslie Rutledge approved the proposal for a ballot to legalize casino gaming and sports betting. The proposal was later added to the November 2018 ballot on the condition that the proposal be published by 6 June 2018 and with at least 84,859 signatures collected no later than 6 July 2018.
In November 2018, voters passed the ballot to amend the Arkansas Constitution to issue four casino licenses to: Southland Racing Corporation in Crittenden County, Oaklawn Jockey Club, Inc. in Garland County; to an applicant in Pope County; and to an applicant in Jefferson County. The casinos will be subject to an incremental tax rate of:
- 13% on the first $150m of gross win, and
- 20% above $150m
Section 1(3)(b) of the measure states that casino licensees may accept wagers on sporting events if and when the state regulates the activity.
Since, sports betting laws and regulation have come into place, retail sports betting outlets have begun to be available for Arkansas bettors.