If you are not too familiar with Arkansas, you would probably guess that there is not much available in the way of gambling here. If you thought this then you are correct, as it only offers two somewhat small casinos. Currently, Arkansas only permits casinos to be opened in the presence of racetracks. This means that for the foreseeable future, there will likely not be any other gambling options. Though Arkansas is home to several large Native American tribes, none of them own casinos within the state. The casinos here are mainly located at horse/greyhound racing tracks and are “racino” hybrids, which until very recently were unable to offer table games.
These casinos now offer up slots and electronic games in addition to live table games and racetracks. There are a total of just two casinos which are located in Hot Springs and West Memphis. The lack of casino options is due to strict rules and regulations which have been present since the mid-1960s. It does not appear that they will be changing anytime soon either. Read on to learn more about the two casinos that are located in Arkansas as well as the types of casinos and history of gambling here.
For more details about gambling online for real money in Arkansas, see our Arkansas Online Casinos & Gambling Sites page.
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Arkansas regulations pertaining to gambling tend to be rather conservative, so the number of land-based real money gaming options available to the residents of The Natural State is somewhat limited. Pari-mutuel wagering on both horses and greyhounds is available at the local racetracks.
Arkansas racetracks like Southland Park or Oaklawn are also allowed to offer reel games and table games. However, it’s worth pointing out that many of the local casino enthusiasts prefer to play their favorite games in neighboring states. Other than that, Arkansas has a state lottery, but online ticket sales are not allowed.
As we briefly went over earlier in the article, there is just one type of casino in Arkansas. You will not find any large casino resorts. The only options available in the state were for some time “slots only” casinos and racing tracks. In recent years, however, the casinos have expanded to also offer table games like blackjack and a few poker variations (three card poker, let it ride etc).
These types of gambling locations offer virtual lottery terminals in addition to table games with live dealers. If you are accustomed to the large casino resorts associated with places like Las Vegas, Reno or Atlantic City, you will be disappointed with the gambling options within Arkansas.
If you are a greyhound or horse racing fan, you will, however, be pleased with the casinos in Arkansas because both locations were originally opened as raceways. Compared to other tracks, like those on the East Coast of the United States, Arkansas’ tracks were opened pretty recently in the mid-20th century. This pales in comparison to those located in states like New York which opened their first tracks in the 19th century.
Unlike the popular resort casinos that popped up all over the country in the late 20th century to early 21st century, Arkansas casinos do not have any hotel rooms or resort-style amenities. They’re more of a weekend getaway for locals, a roadside stop for passers by or a once-a-year destination for horse racing enthusiasts. The casinos here do offer some slot machine varieties and video poker machines, and that was about it until very recently.
The state requires that games could only be offered here which involved electronics and some form of skill. Recently, the casinos decided that by watching the outcome via the “eye in the sky” they would qualify as an “electronic game of skill.” This led them to quickly expand their gaming options to include many table games like blackjack. The proposal met much resistance, but inevitably was passed just a few years ago. Since table games started being added to the casinos in Arkansas, they have also added poker rooms.
During the 1920s, Hot Springs, Arkansas was a major gambling center with more than ten large casinos that rivaled those in Las Vegas. A growing mob scene brought about increased violence and regulatory issues, eventually leading to the indictment of several casino owners. As a result, Arkansas now takes a hard stance against brick-and-mortar casino establishments.
There are no casinos in Arkansas or on the state’s Indian reservations. Betting money or valuables on the outcome of any game of hazard or skill is classified as illegal gambling.
However, due to the Local Option Horse Racing Electronic Games of Skill Act implemented in 2005, some local municipality counties are allowed to host electronic games of skill at race tracks. These “racinos” are limited to video poker and standard slot machines.
There are currently two racinos in Arkansas:
Players looking for table games or a more traditional casino experience can either leave the state or seek offshore casinos. Online Blackjack, Roulette, and Craps are not mentioned in Arkansas gambling laws.
Arkansas is the only state in the US that doesn’t provide funding to prevent gambling addiction or help those suffering from it. The National Council on Problem Gambling created a special hotline for Arkansas gamblers; aside from that, there are few resources available to gambling addicts.
With the US Supreme Court allowing sports gambling regulation on the state-level, both Arkansas racinos have begun to push for sports betting legalization. A constitutional amendment for sports wagering authority was recently proposed, but the state has not made any progress towards implementing it.
The amendment would also allow the opening of two additional casinos in Arkansas, creating conflict and competition for the two currently operating racinos.
With so many details to work out and no bills on the legislation floor yet, the chances of sports wagering being legalized in Arkansas any time soon are low.
The state of Arkansas does not currently differentiate between wagers made on electronic sports (eSports) and traditional sports. For this reason, eSports gambling is also prohibited.
In 2017, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed House Bill 2250 legalizing daily fantasy sports (DFS) gambling. DFS operators are taxed at a rate of eight percent and lightly regulated, resulting in concerns about consumer protection. Players in Arkansas can access popular fantasy gaming websites such as FanDuel and Draftkings.
Although Arkansas permits betting on the outcome of horse races, only pari-mutuel wagers are allowed. Pari-mutuel wagers may also be made on franchised greyhound races. The Arkansas State Racing Commission carefully monitors the two thoroughbred horse and greyhound racing tracks operating in the state.
The Southlands racetrack is the only establishment in Arkansas which hosts poker. Although it’s currently limited to six live poker tables, the racetrack offers both cash games and tournaments.
Players may not gamble on card games such as poker in their private residence. Social poker is illegal; however, the fine for those caught gambling does not exceed $25.
Those looking to gamble from the comfort of their home or interested in a more competitive poker environment can use our list of recommended online casinos to find great online poker sites.
After a constitutional amendment ratified by state voters in 2008, Arkansas implemented the Scholarship Lottery Act to found a lottery with the goal of helping students pay their university tuition.
Currently, Arkansas offers popular multi-state lotteries, including:
The Arkansas in-state lottery also offers:
Lottery winners claim around 66% of the winnings; 20% of the prize money goes to Arkansas in the form of state taxes, and the remaining amount is used to cover gaming costs and lottery commission. Prize money won through lotteries may be subject to garnishment by the state if the winner is delinquent on their taxes or child support. If a lottery winner fails to claim their winnings within 180 days, the money is forfeit to the state.
Players must be over 18 years old to obtain a lottery ticket. All lottery tickets must be purchased with cash through a certified retailer.
Arkansas charity gaming laws permit bingo and raffle gaming as long as the operator is a non-profit organization.
Arkansas is home to many bingo halls, including:
Though today Arkansas is lacking in its offering of casinos and legal gambling options, that was once far from the case. At one point in time, Arkansas was somewhat of a gambling paradise. Between the years of 1927 and 1947, there was over 10 casinos located across the state (mostly illegal), mainly in Hot Springs. At the time, a man named Owney Madden led the way with his large Hotel Arkansas Casino in Hot Springs. This, and a few other casinos in the area, were frequently visited by characters like Al Capone and were a favorite retreat.
In 1937, one of the state’s biggest opposing forces of illegal gambling, a former sheriff, was murdered. This just goes to shed light on the politics and corruption present during this period of time. It wasn’t until 1946 when a World War II vet returned home and turned things around. His name was Sid McMath, and he was largely responsible for restoring law and order to these illegal gambling operations.
Gambling would slowly decline in the state over the following years, until in 1967 it was flat-out banned. It wasn’t until roughly 40 years later when Oaklawn was eventually permitted to offer electronic games. Now there are just two casinos, which offer limited gaming selections. It seems that Arkansas has some pretty solid views on gambling, which it does not appear will be changing any time in the immediate future.
Unlike many other locations in the United States, the gambling age in Arkansas is 18 years old. This includes horse betting, pari-mutuel gambling, and the lottery. You must be 21 to consume alcohol at the casinos here, and alcohol is not always comped (this will obviously depend on the specific casino you are visiting).