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Sports betting in Arkansas

Most states have liberalized their gambling regulations over the past few decades. Arkansas has gone in the other direction. At one point, Hot Springs, Arkansas was one of the largest gambling jurisdictions in the world. At various points during the first half of the 20th century it rivaled and on occasion exceeded Las Vegas. That all started to end in the 1940’s when a grand jury indicted a number of the top casino executives in Hot Springs. By 1967, gambling in Hot Springs had been stopped entirely.

That essentially was a ‘wrap’ for legal gambling in Arkansas for decades to come. The state has parimutuel wagering with Oaklawn Park the top horse track. More recently, the racing facilities have been allowed to offer electronic ‘games of skill’ which are not prohibited by state gambling regulations. These are essentially watered down versions of slots, video poker and video blackjack. They are required by law to have a minimum payback of 83%. Despite being very lackluster compared to the slots found in Las Vegas and elsewhere, there are over 2,500 of these skill based games at Oaklawn Park and the Southland Greyhound track over the border from Memphis, Tennessee.

There are a few other legal forms of gambling in Arkansas. The state has a lottery with draw and scratch card type games. Like a number of other Southern states they try to take the gambling veneer off of it by calling it a ‘Scholarship Lottery’ and drawing attention to the educational opportunities it underwrites. Live poker is offered at the Southland track though, oddly enough, home poker games are illegal. It’s worth noting that the state code indicates a ‘maximum fine’ for gambling of just $25. There are also bingo halls in the state run under the ‘charitable gambling’ provision of state code.

Change could be forthcoming as there are two casino gambling that could appear on the November 2018 ballot. Both would not only expand the casino gambling opportunities in the state but would also allow for sports betting to be offered.

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