Arkansas Sports Betting

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Sports Betting Legislation Enacted
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Last updated: June 1, 2020

Status: Legal sports betting is available in Arkansas.

ETA: The first legal Arkansas sportsbooks launched in July 2019

 

Arkansas Sports Betting Timeline

Arkansas was the eighth US state to legalize sports betting. Despite being a state that’s had a torrid relationship with the gambling industry, legislators were quick off the mark. Following the demise of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), Arkansas jumped on the betting bandwagon in November 2018.

Known technically as Issue 4, the constitutional amendment gave the green light for casinos in four counties. What’s more, an additional clause made it possible for licensed venues to accept “wagers on sporting events”. With the amendment approved, the Arkansas Racing Commission was given responsibility for overseeing the growth and regulation of the local sports betting industry.

When it passed through the legislative system, the intention was to have legal sportsbooks go live by June 2019. However, since the positive vote in 2018, a number of proposals have been put forward and delayed the process. The most significant was Senate Bill 669. Submitted in April 2019, the bill pushed to outlaw betting on certain events, including the Special Olympics and the WWE. However, it also made provisions for mobile betting.

As of May 2019, Arkansas sports betting was legal but no betting venues were live. Regardless, the Wonder State is now officially aligned with other US sports betting states such as Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware.

 

Arkansas Betting History

There has always been some form of gambling in Arkansas but, unfortunately, not all of it has been legal. As you’ll see in the timeline below, the state has slowly emerged from a dark gambling past and into the light of modern regulation.

1800s– With the Civil War over, two warring factions had control of Hot Springs in the 1880s. To fund their illicit activities and, in turn, control of the region, the gangs ran illegal gambling operations. By paying off law enforcement officers, the gangsters were able to keep their sports betting and gaming operations running.

1900s– By the early 1900s, Hot Springs had become a hotspot for gambling fans. Owney Madden had built the Hotel Arkansas Casino which topped a list of ten gaming venues across Hot Springs. In fact, such was the popularity and power of the local casinos that the openly advertised off-track betting.

Perhaps the most telling sign of illegal gambling’s grip on Hot Springs was the murder of a local sheriff in 1937. After pushing to have the state’s anti-gambling laws properly enforced, the sheriff was killed.

1948– Thanks to efforts by Marine Lt. Col. Sid McMath and the Government Improvement initiative, anti-gambling laws were enforced in 1948. However, under the watch of newly elected Governor Orval Faubus unlawful activity restarted in 1954 after he was said to have turned a blind eye to any illegal activity.

1967– Eventually, in 1967, Governor Winthrop Rockefeller and Circuit Judge Henry M. Britt brought an end to illegal gambling in Arkansas. This move cleared away the illicit venues and paved the way for the dynamic we have today.

1968-2017– Only two venues in Arkansas were allowed to offer horse racing and dog racing. As well as accepting bets on these sports, limited gaming options such as slots were available at Oaklawn Park and Southland Greyhound Park.

2018– Issue 4 was passed. As well as permitting sports betting at the state’s racing tracks, the bill made it possible for Arkansas to host four casinos.

 

Is sports betting legal in Arkansas?

Yes. A constitutional amendment was passed in November 2018 which made sports betting and casinos legal within the state.

 

Who controls sports betting in Arkansas?

The Arkansas Racing Commission controls sports betting and gaming within the state. Although there was an original clause that would have given professional sports leagues such as the NFL a say in how the industry was run, this is no longer the case. However, the leagues are entitled to a share of Arkansas sports betting revenue.

 

What is the legal age to bet on sports in Arkansas?

To use legal Arkansas sportsbooks, you have to be 21 or older.

 

Where can I bet on sports in Arkansas?

The state’s first sportsbook opened for business in July 2019. You can bet at the following places:

    Oaklawn Racing & Gaming (as of July 2019)
    Southland Racing & Gaming (as of January 2020)
 

Who are the current operators/licensees in Arkansas?

Oaklawn Racing and Gaming

Southland Racing and Gaming

Some additional facilities in Jefferson and Pope counties are proposed, but as of yet are not operators or licensees.

 

Is mobile and app sports betting available in Arkansas?

No mobile or app sports betting is allowed at present.

 

How much is sports betting worth in Arkansas?

At this stage, it’s unclear how much Arkansas sports betting is worth.

 

What is the tax rate for Arkansas sports betting?

The tax rate for Arkansas sportsbooks has changed numerous times since Issue 4 was approved

Casino revenue is taxed at 13% on the first $150,000,000 and thereafter 20%.

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