Arkansas – The Natural State – is part of the bible belt of the US, and hence has a restrictive gambling regime, with the exception of online gambling which continues to flourish due to the ambiguous interactive gaming laws.
Before the events of 2020, online gambling was turning over $9 million per year. This pales in comparison to the turnover seen from Video Gaming Machines hosted at race tracks which comes in at close to $900 million per year. Although the online gaming turnover is extremely low, it’s evidence that Arkansas players are enjoying the convenience, safety and security offered via online games.
Arkansas Online gambling can be broken down into three distinct activities – casino, sports betting and bingo.
All three forms of gambling, are addressed in different sections of State Law and therefore when considered from an onshore perspective their conclusion to legality may be due to different reasons. The distribution of the gaming activity via the internet or “online” is not explicitly addressed, and thus, with no clear direction, it is implied that the laws governing land based may also be applicable for online gaming.
As a result, no onshore operator is permitted to operate an online site, and therefore no onshore sites are available for Arkansas residents. The laws do not preclude offshore based sites, and therefore players can sign up and play at many offshore based Arkansas casino, sports betting and bingo sites.
- Onshore casino operators are unlawful, however offshore online casino operators are available and accept Arkansas players.
- Arkansas State Lottery holds monopoly on land based lottery products, however very limited online gambling is available. Online activity is limited to sales and distribution.
- Pari-mutel gambling is lawful and is permitted through Oaklawn Park Racing & Gaming and Southland Park Racetrack. Oaklawn Park holds a monopoly on advanced deposit wagering through their site oaklawnanwhere.com.
- Casino style gaming is permitted at horse and dog racing facilities, however none are available online.
- Sports wagering is legal and is offered through Oaklawn Park and other horse and dog racing facilities. Online sports betting remains illegal.
- Daily Fantasy Sports is legal with DraftKing and FanDuel accepting players from Arkansas.
Top 3 Arkansas Online Bingo Sites
Arkansas bingo laws are stipulated under Charitable gaming state legislation. These laws provide for the licensing of non profit organizations to operate bingo games. At present, these laws do not address nor permit online bingo by onshore operators. Accordingly, online bingo sites that do accept Arkansas players are based offshore (which is the same as online casinos and sports betting sites).
The recommended online bingo sites all accept players from Arkansas. They offer advanced features that include instant messaging, fun bingo games and protocols that ensures bingo participants play together in a civil enjoyable manner. Due to the social aspect of bingo, there is a cultural aspect to bingo which cannot be found with casino or sports betting. As an example, A LOT of acronyms form part of instant chat messaging. If you are not familiar with online bingo lingo, do not be afraid, learning it is one of the most fun parts!
Best 5 Arkansas Online Casinos
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Arkansas online casino games are currently available and offered through various sites that are based offshore. These sites are safe and secure to play at, with no risk posed to Arkansas players, both regarding legality or to player data protection.
The best online casinos all use the latest SSL internet technology, and feature secure payment methods that are common, trusted and processed by reputable financial institutions. These include: VISA, MasterCard, Amex, Bitcoin (BTC), direct wire transfers and many other methods.
Casino Bonuses are extremely important in selecting an online casino. We have therefore displayed some of the best casino bonuses that can be found whilst balancing other important criteria such as safety and security as previously mentioned. However, for ease of reference, we have listed them according to the size of bonus.
Without doubt, at the time of writing, El Royale Casino offers the best casino bonus deal and is also one of the safest. Coupled with excellent customer service, El Royale is our top recommended online casino for Arkansas players.
Arkansas Casinos Reviewed
The largest city in Arkansas, Little Rock, currently does not have a casino but there soon will be! Construction is underway, with expected completion by 2021. In the mean time, the nearest casino is Oaklawn Racing Casino in Hot Springs, which is just under 100 miles away. Not exactly the shortest of drives, needing approximately 2 hours to get there.
If you want the avoid the hassle of a long drive, and not put up with wearing a mask, having your temperature checked, plus playing through plexiglass, and have the fear of catching coronavirus in the back of your mind, consider playing online live casinos games with live dealers.
Arkansas Live Casinos and Live Dealers
OK, we get it, some player have a lot of distrust with playing at RNG online interactive games. So guess what? The new rage at the moment is playing a online Live Casinos with real live dealers. That’s right, you can now have streamed to your playing device a real Live Dealing, handing our cards to you, or spinning the roulette wheel. You can then be assured (if there was any doubt) of fair play and fair odds. In addition, you get to use advanced online innovative features that can only be offered online.
These features include, unlimited back betting of other players. If you see a fellow player go on a winning streak, you can back bet on him along with an unlimited number of other players. This would be impossible at a land based casino. Also, you have the ability to put in advanced decision making when playing blackjack. Why wait for your turn in telling the Dealer you want to hit or sit, when you can submit your decision immediately after your hand is dealt. Games roll fast and furious with exciting gaming action.
Sports Betting Sites
In July 2019 the Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort became the first operator in the state to launch retail sportsbetting partnering SBTech. In the ensuring months, the Saracen Casino Annex launched its retail sportsbetting operations with IGT in October 2019. However local online sports betting remains illegal.
Online sports betting sites, however, do exist and they are based offshore. They accept Arkansas bettors, with no precedence of any bettor being informed of a breach in law, let alone charged with a misdemeanor or felony.
Daily Fantasy Sports
Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) is growing fast in popularity. New to the gambling scene, it is considered a game of skill by many which requires bettors to create a fictitious team based on real players. The performance of the real sports players in real life determine how successful the fictitious team is. As a result, it truly is those with the most “skills” will win.
The two most popular daily fantasy sports providers are DraftKings and FanDuel. On this site, we do not actively promote daily fantasy sports as we understand that it is a game of “skill” which is being exploited by bettors who have the best risk modelling. That is, it isn’t nearly about how well you know your sport, the sport players etc, it is very much about who has the best statistical model and who has access to the most detailed sports player data.
As someone who may be a big fan of sport, and thinking that they would have a good chance of winning money in DFS, think again. You are pitted against statistical modelling experts who deliberately target games that mostly have new players to DFS. In fact, it has been alleged that those who are extremely good at DFS have been known to collaborate among themselves and not compete with each other. Thereby creating a sustainable winning formula shared by the experts.
We therefore want our readers to be aware that DFS is not what is appears to be. In fairness, DFS is legal in Arkansas and many DFS onshore operators accept Arkansas players.
If you intend to get started with DFS, you can read more here.
- Onshore online casino operators are unlawful.
- Offshore online casino operators are unregulated.
- In November 2018, four commercial casino licenses issued after passing a state referendum. The referendum also legalised sports betting.
- Bingo is permitted as charitable gaming.
Legal Minimum Gambling Age
- The minimum gambling age is 18 for pari-mutuel wagering, DFS, lottery and bingo.
- The minimum gambling age is 21 for slots, poker and sports wagering.
Lottery surplus is circulated to fund educational purposes.
Daily Fantasy Sports is taxed at 8% as a special levy
Regulation and Governance
- Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration
- Arkansas Racing Commission
- Arkansas Constitution
- Local Option Horse Racing and Greyhound Racing Electronic Games of Skill Act 2005
Arkansas Gambling Market Developments
Gambling regulation in Arkansas is middle ground – neither liberal or conservative, with lawful gambling primarily limited to horse and dog race wagering, and electronic games of skill at the states racetracks. It is only within the last year, that gambling laws have now expanded to sports betting.
Oaklawn Park Racing & Gaming operates horse race wagering, slots, video poker and electronic blackjack; Southland Park Gaming & Racing operates horse and dog racing, simulcasts, slots and table games.
The state considered licensing and regulating commercial land based casinos in 2012, but the initiative was unsuccessful.
In June 2014, Oaklawn launched its interactive platform enabling residents of Arkansas to bet on races at Oaklawn, as well as at other US and international race tracks.
The Arkansas Legislative Council approved two contract agreements for the State Lottery.
The first was a 5-year consulting contract with Camelot Global Services, who will conduct a performance audit, before providing a tailored business plan including retail, sales, advertising and marketing. The Council also approved a 10-year contract extension with Scientific Games, for continued vending services of instant lottery games.
The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery agreed to a 5-year business expansion plan put forward by Camelot Global Services. The plan will see the lottery increase their marketing budget and work force, whilst also rolling out 600 new terminals. Camelot expect the changes to increase revenue by $165m in the period up to the 2021 fiscal year.
The Supreme Court ruled that a question of whether to authorize casinos in 3 counties in the state would not be included on the November ballot.
The Senate voted in favor of a bill to authorize the purchase of lottery products with a debit card. SB617 would remove the “cash only” restriction imposed by previous legislation but would not permit the use of any form of deferred payment such as credit cards. The bill progressed to the House for consideration; Representative Jimmy Gazaway introduced HB2250 to exempt daily fantasy sports from the state’s gambling prohibition and impose an 8% gross win tax on operators. The bill was submitted to the House Journal Committee for consideration.
Daily fantasy sports bill, HB2250 was passed by the Senate. The bill was re-submitted to the House for consideration as it was amended before the Senate vote, if passed by the House the bill will be referred to the Governor for final approval.
HB2250 was unanimously approved by the House after its second consideration by the chamber. The bill progressed to the Governor’s Office for final approval; State Governor, Asa Hutchinson signed SB617 into law to permit the use of debit cards for lottery ticket purchases. The bill is scheduled to come into force in July 2017.
The House gave its final approval to HB2250 to legalise and regulate daily fantasy sports and impose an 8% gross win tax on operators. The bill was subsequently referred to the Office of the Governor who enacted the bill.
Attorney General, Leslie Rutledge dismissed proposals to allow a ballot to be held on the topic of legalizing casino gaming. If approved by a majority of voters, the ballot would have introduced a constitutional amendment to remove the prohibition on casinos and offer licenses at a county level.
Driving Arkansas Forward re-submitted a proposal to allow a ballot to be held on the topic of legalizing casino gaming, which included an amendment to allow expanded gambling at horse/dog tracks where electronic gaming is currently offered.
Attorney General, Leslie Rutledge rejected the proposed constitutional amendment to legalize casino gaming and permit expanded gambling at horse/dog tracks where electronic gaming is currently offered within the state.
Attorney General, Leslie Rutledge approved the proposal for a ballot to legalize casino gaming and sports betting in the state. The proposal would be added to the November 2018 ballot on the condition that the proposal is published by 6 June 2018 and then 84,859 signatures are collected no later than 6 July 2018.
The Secretary of State confirmed that the gambling measure to amend the Arkansas constitution will feature on the November 6 general election ballot.
The motion would allow the Arkansas Racing Commission to issue casino and sports betting licences to successful licence applicants in Jefferson County and Pope County, together with Southland Racing Corp. in West Memphis and Oaklawn Jockey Club in Hot Springs.
In response, a committee opposed to gaming and sports betting filed a lawsuit in the Arkansas Supreme Court to remove the measure from the ballot.
Voters in the November ballot passed Ballot Issue 4 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.
The Racing Commission approved regulations to govern the establishment and operation of casino gaming and sports betting in the state at four (4) land-based properties, as approved by voters in the November referendum. The regulations maintained the tax rate set out in the initial legislation of 13% on the first $150m of gross win, and 20% above $150m. Provisions to allow licensees to offer interactive poker were included in the regulations and language pertaining to the operation of interactive sports betting suggests this could be permitted also, however, further clarification was required at this stage. The regulations progressed to the Secretary of State to be signed into law following a ten (10) day stand-still period.
Two (2) Arkansas racetracks, Oaklawn and Southland, opened their casino operations on 1 April 2019. Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs and Southland Casino and Racing in West Memphis will offer players blackjack, poker, roulette, slots and a host of other table games.
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort became the first operator in the state to launch retail sports betting on 1 July 2019 in partnership with SBTech.
The Saracen Casino Annex launched its retail sports betting operations with its partner IGT on 1 October 2019. The Annex is a temporary facility which opened on 27 September 2019 offering 300 gaming machines and is scheduled to be superseded by the full Saracen Casino Resort by the end of 2020.
Southland Casino Racing launched its retail sports book in partnership with Betly on 9 September 2020.
Is it legal to gamble for real money at online casinos in Arkansas?
Gambling laws vary for each type of game. Online games are not permitted to be offered by onshore gaming operators. As a result, online operators are based offshore at regulated and licensed jurisdictions. Arkansas players are accepted by the offshore operators. In regards, to player legality, the laws neither explicitly declare online gambling as illegal or legal. As a result Arkansas players can continue to enjoy playing online games.
What is the legal minimum age to play at online casinos?
Legal minimum ages vary from online casino to online casino, however their requirement is that the higher of the player’s jurisdiction the the online casino’s own legal minimum is taken to be the determine age limit. Therefore, for Arkansas players the legal minimum age is 21. The ONLY exception is DFS which is 18.
Are there any casinos in Little Rock, Arkansas?
There are currently no casinos in Little Rock, Arkansas. However approval has been given by the government to build a new casino which should be operational by 2021.
What is the nearest casino to Little Rock?
The nearest casino is the Oaklawn Racking Casino located in Hot Springs that requires a one hour drive.
Is Sports Betting legal in Arkansas?
Yes it is. Onshore sports bets can be placed at Oaklawn Race Track. In addition sports bets can be placed at offshore sports betting sites.