A Complete Overview of Online Gambling in Arkansas

Arkansas Legal Online Casinos Overview:

  • Status: Recently made legal
  • Introduced: No current legislation
  • Bill sponsor: No current sponsor

When thinking of the state of Arkansas, places like Las Vegas or Atlantic City probably don’t come to mind. In actuality, the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas had all the makings for becoming a gambling hub of the country in the Midwest just like Sin City.

That all came to a screeching halt when the state completely banned almost all types of betting. Although today, the Natural State has two casino and racing complexes, it doesn’t nearly match the potential of what it could have become. Still, the future looks bright for gamblers as state legislatures and business makers have set in motion plans to turn Arkansas into casino country.

Looking Back: Arkansas Gambling History

So what happened in Hot Springs anyway? This gorgeous region in the Ouachita Mountains has, as you guessed it, natural hot springs, with ample opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Its natural beauty made it a federally protected reserve, and a place for visitors to go fishing, hiking and soak in bathhouses.

People didn’t just come to Hot Springs, Arkansas for the spa experience. Back in the day, even before the Civil War, Hot Springs attracted gamblers who came to place bets on all kinds of card games. Mobsters also tried to sink their claws into the territory, fighting for control over liquor distribution and gambling way back in the 1880s.

Between the outdoors activities, bathhouses, bars and gambling establishments, you can imagine that tourism would easily continue to grow. In the early 20th century, baseball training camps popped up in Arkansas. As more and more people flocked to Hot Springs, the town decided to expand attractions by building the Oaklawn race track in 1904.

The opening of the Oaklawn race track sparked the gambling industry in Hot Springs. By the late twenties, ten more gambling establishments opened in town. People traveled from around the country to enjoy Arkansas casinos. The fun continued for close to 20 years until scandal brought gambling in Hot Springs to a crashing halt.

The downfall of gambling in the state of Arkansas came in 1947 after a grand jury indicted several owners of Hot Springs’ major casinos. Legal battles left a bad taste in the mouth of voters. The post-war years saw a change in attitude, and the good people of Arkansas took a stance against casinos in the state. Eventually, Hot Springs saw the demise of gambling when it completely shut down in 1967.

It took nearly 40 years before legal gambling of any kind returned to The Land of Opportunity. State lawmakers and citizens couldn’t ignore the kind of success they saw in places like Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Locals realized the chance to earn billions in tax revenues by bringing back gambling. They began to wonder what kind of opportunity had they missed out on by shutting down the casinos in Hot Springs. Others remained reluctant to reintroduce gambling to Arkansas.

Today, Arkansas laws have at least legalized certain types of betting. The state allows games of skill like live poker and Blackjack. Visitors and residents can also participate in charitable gambling like bingos and raffles.

Arkansas’s stance on gambling has begun to evolve and slowly the state has warmed up to allow certain types of betting. The state currently has two casino/race tracks that combine racing with a variety of table games and betting machines.

Oaklawn Racing & Gaming

Arkansas’s historical Oaklawn Racing and Gaming represents the state’s premier race track and casino. Located in Hot Springs National Park, Oaklawn first opened in 1904. Although not the first race track in Arkansas, it stood the test of time, even during turbulent periods for gambling in Hot Springs.

Architect Zachary Taylor Davis, who later went on to design the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field stadium, created the plans for the race track’s glass-enclosed, heated grandstand. It stood out as one of the country’s first of its kind back in 1904. Throughout the decades, many famous horses have raced on the tracks of Oaklawn including its more notorious alum, Concern, who won the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (G2) and the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) in 1994.

The legacy of Oaklawn lives on in Hot Springs. Its most famous events, the Racing Festival of the South and Arkansas Derby, attract punters from far and wide. Today the $1 million Arkansas Derby takes place here each year.

Gamblers at Oaklawn can also enjoy live casinos. Gaming floors include live dealer Blackjack, Dynasty Auto Roulette, i-Table Roulette, Three Card poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Craps, Roulette and electronic dealer Blackjack. Oaklawn Casino also houses reel games like video poker and slots. You’ll find games like The Voice slot, Heat ‘Em Up Power Wheel, Cash Spin Deluxe, Dragon’s Law Twin Fever and much, much more.

Southland Gaming & Racing

This Arkansas casino first opened its dog track back in 1956, making it the first and only gambling venue in the region as well as Arkansas’s first greyhound race track. Tourists would travel from neighboring states to enjoy pari-mutuel betting (pooled bets) on horse and greyhound racing. The casino’s hometown of West Memphis represents the only other city in Arkansas, aside from Hot Springs, that permits pari-mutuel betting.

During the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Southland stood out as the country’s highest-earning track in the country. Races would attract at least 20,000 people, and bets earned over $200 million in annual revenue. The race track fell on hard times when competing casinos opened up not far away in Tunica, Mississippi. Southland had difficulty in competing with the large casino-resorts that sprung up.

Arkansas lawmakers took action to help spur the economy in 2005 by giving race tracks permission to install games of skill at their facilities. Southland Gaming introduced Blackjack and poker tables along with video Blackjack and video poker games. The racino has recovered significantly since. The establishment even underwent a $40 million renovation that expanded the gaming rooms to include a 55,000 square foot floor plus a 65,000 square foot race track, 400 seat event center, and even a nightclub. New restaurants like Sammy Hagar’s Red Rocker Bar and Grill, World Market Buffet and Bourbon Street Steakhouse Grill gave gamblers (and hungry tourists) even more of a reason to visit Southland.

What’s the Future for Arkansas Casinos? A Vote for Vice!

Looking ahead to the future of Arkansas online casinos and land-based gambling, it seems like the gambling landscape will change drastically. Arkansas lawmakers have introduced new legislation that could potentially bring more types of gambling to the Natural State. Citizens alike don’t want to miss out on the tremendous economic potential of permitting more gambling throughout the state. According to the University of Arkansas Economic Development Institute, allowing full-scale casinos could bring in as much as $6 billion in revenue and create over 6,000 new jobs for the state.

Therefore, it came as no surprise when, in 2018, Arkansas lawmakers passed Issue 4, a bill that calls for the creation of four casinos in four different state counties. The vote passed by 54.1%. Now, residents and tourists in Arkansas can look forward to the establishment of casinos at the Oaklawn and Southland race tracks. Two more casinos will open in the state’s Jefferson County and Pope County. Although AK doesn’t currently have any tribal casinos, the Native American community had skin in the game. Together, the Quapaw and Cherokee tribes both contributed $4 million in campaign efforts to pass the bill.

Arkansas Gambling Overview:

  • Year Arkansas regulated offline and online gambling: 1947, offline
  • Arkansas gambling age for casinos: 21
  • Arkansas gambling age for pari-mutuel wagering: 18
  • Legal online casino games in Arkansas: 0
  • Number of commercial casinos: 2 (with 2 more set to open)
  • Number of tribal casinos: 0

Gambling in Arkansas: What’s Legal?

Arkansas has pretty strict laws regarding legalized gambling. When it comes to casino games, the state law only allows “games of skill.” Oaklawn Park Casino does have a few games slightly based on Blackjack and video poker. In order to enjoy all sorts of casino games, residents may need to cross the border and head over to Mississippi to play popular slots and table games like Blackjack, poker, Roulette and so on.

Arkansas does have more flexibility when it comes to poker at least. The state’s Southland Gaming and Racing in West Memphis, Arkansas has poker and Blackjack tables. The racino also has 1,900 gaming machines like video poker and live greyhound racing.

Big changes are happening in the United States in terms of gambling. That comes as a direct result of a 2018 US Supreme Court Ruling removing the nationwide ban on sports book. Across the nation, state legislatures have started to pass laws to legalize sports betting.

Now Arkansas has popped up on the short list of states ready to welcome sports book into their borders. Citizens approved the expansion of casino gaming as well as Arkansas sports book as of November 2018. Now Southland, one of the state’s two existing race tracks and gaming facilities, has started advertising that sports betting is “coming soon”.

Legal AK gambling includes:

  • Poker rooms
  • Games of skill
  • Bingo
  • Charitable betting
  • Table games
  • Reel games
  • Video poker
  • Blackjack
  • Lottery
  • Racing
  • Pari-mutuel betting
  • Social Gaming
  • Sports betting
  • Tribal Gaming: 0

Funny enough, many of the penalties for illegal gambling haven’t changed much since the 1960s. Those convicted of illegal gambling, in most cases, only need to pay a small fine of between $10 to $25.

Online Casinos in Arkansas: What You Should Know

Currently, the state of Arkansas doesn’t have any legal online casinos. However, with states like Nevada and New Jersey getting involved by legalizing online betting, the competition has heated up. Arkansas simply can’t ignore the profitability of legalizing online sports betting and possibly even online casinos.

Are Arkansas Online Casinos Legal for Non-Arkansas Residents?

  • Currently, neither residents nor non-residents of Arkansas can legally bet at online casinos within the state. If you live in Arkansas, you can, however, travel to other states throughout the country to experience online casinos. States like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Delaware offer legal online casino games, online sports betting or online poker.

What types of games do Arkansas online casinos have available?

  • If you want to play slots online or enjoy online sports book, you’ll need to travel outside of Arkansas, for now anyway. The state does not have any legal online casinos, but, with so many changes happening across the country in terms of gambling, Arkansas online casinos could become a reality in the not so distant future.

Can I play online casino in Arkansas if I don’t live there?

  • Whether you live in Arkansas or you’re just in town for a visit, you cannot legally play online casinos within state limits. However, many US states have passed new laws permitting online gambling. States like New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware offer online casino and poker games. You can also travel to places like West Virginia or Nevada to play online casinos or bet on sports.

Do offshore online casinos operate in Arkansas?

  • Currently, no online casinos can legally operate in Arkansas. That also means that the state does not have any legal online casinos offshore.

How to Choose the Best Online Casino in Arkansas

Although Arkansas doesn’t currently allow gamblers to play online casinos, with the current political climate in the United States, this could change in the very near future. States across the country, from Rhode Island to Nevada, have begun passing legislation to permit some form of online casino, sports betting app or online poker.

Maybe you’d like to take a vacation to one of the states that allow online betting and give it a whirl. Meanwhile, with current trends in favor of gambling, Arkansas could become the next state to legalize internet bets. In anticipation, here’s how to choose the best online casino in Arkansas.

Best Online Casino Games in Arkansas

When choosing an online casino, you’ll want to make sure that the gambling site actually offers the games you enjoy playing. If the day arrives for legal Arkansas online casinos, then check out the gaming selection first before joining. If you love slot machines, the casino should host a range of slots, from classic 3 and 5 reel games to state-of-the-art slots with 243 ways to win.

If you prefer table games, then you’ll want to choose a gambling site that offers a variety of table and card games. Some of the popular choices include online poker rooms and tournaments, online Blackjack, online Roulette, online Baccarat and online Craps. Often legal online casinos will host live casinos that stream real croupiers from behind your favorite tables. During the games, players can interact with each other and the dealer, making it a fully immersive online casino experience. Unfortunately, you won’t have these gaming options at legal online casinos in Arkansas, yet.

Many states have already passed laws permitting online sports betting. When choosing a betting app, make sure the site has the sports you follow, from football and baseball to esports and fantasy sports.

Welcome Bonuses / Sign Up Bonuses

When the day finally arrives when Arkansas legalizes online casinos, in all likelihood these casinos will come out with big deals to attract new players. Often online casinos do this by offering welcome bonuses. Typically, casinos give away free spins on slots or match your first several deposits by hundreds or sometimes thousands of dollars.

Ongoing Casino Bonuses and Promotions

Once you sign up, you’ll want more than just a welcome bonus to keep things exciting. Make sure to choose a casino that gives away freebies all throughout the year. You can check in the promotions section or in the bonus calendar to find out the types of promos available. Some of the most common online casino bonuses include refer-a-friend offers, match deposits, free spins and holiday bonuses.

VIP Clubs & Exclusive Offers

Just like in many of the existing Arkansas casinos, online casinos will offer VIP benefits to its loyal customers and high rollers. If you plan to play online casinos often, join a gambling site that offers VIP rewards like exclusive bonuses, prize giveaways, dedicated support and other benefits.

Online Casino Reviews: What Do Other Players Have to Say?

Reading online casino reviews at reputable portals provides a great resource when choosing the best online casinos in Arkansas (if and when they become legal, that is). Not only that, but online casino reviews and portals will keep players up to date on the latest news regarding gambling in Arkansas. If online sports betting or casino becomes legal, you’ll be the first to know by signing up for newsletters or frequenting online casino portals. Meanwhile, player reviews will highlight positive and negative experiences. In this way, you know what to expect before taking the time to register and place bets at a casino.

Online Casino Customer Support

The player should always come first at any online casino. The best online casinos offer reliable customer support around the clock. If gamblers have questions or need assistance, they should have plenty of options for contacting customer support such as through live chat, email, telephone, Skype and so on. The top online casinos should also have enough resources like an FAQ and other information to make it easy for players to easily find the information they need without contacting support.

The Bottom Line on Arkansas Online Gambling

Although traditionally a conservative state when it comes to gambling, the future of Arkansas casinos looks bright and full of betting. For decades, state only had two racinos, in Oaklawn and Southland. As of 2018, a movement in favor of gambling led to the passing of Issue 4. The bill allows full-scale casinos in Arkansas. Race tracks, Oaklawn and Southland, will expand to offer complete gaming floors. Meanwhile, two more casinos will open in Jefferson County and Pope County.

Arkansas also became one of the most recent states to jump on the bandwagon for legalizing sports betting. Prominent AK casino, Southland, has already started advertising the upcoming sports book that it will offer at its facilities. Surely, competing casinos in the state will follow suit.

As for online gambling, that still remains unclear as far as Arkansas goes. However, with states like New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware passing laws allowing for legal online casinos, Arkansas may consider the possibility of allowing online gambling and sports betting apps. Only time will tell, but we all look forward to the emerging US online casino industry as it continues to grow across the country.