Current Sports Betting Status: Legal but not yet operational
Arkansas legalized sports betting after voters supported Issue 4 in a state referendum. The result gives four casinos within the state the green light to offer sports wagering. Arkansas is the second state in its region to legalize sports betting and the seventh state outside of Nevada to pass a sports betting law.
The first legal sports betting in Arkansas should to launch in mid-2019. The amendment automatically granted sports betting licenses to the existing Oaklawn Jockey Club and the Southland Racing Corporation. Under the amendment, both Southland and Oaklawn have approval for sports betting at their current facilities or adjacent to them, although it is not available just yet. The amendment also allows for the award of two additional gambling licenses. These will require an application fee and have yet to be determined. The application fee must be less than $250,000 and the location of the two sports betting licensed casinos is limited to:
- “Pope County within two miles of Russellville,”
- “Jefferson County within two miles of Pine Bluff.”
Gambling taxes will be 13 percent for net revenues up to $150 million and 20 percent for revenues above that. These rates hit the sweet spot which both maximizes state revenues and encourages the most people to leave black market sites. Online and mobile sports betting have not been legalized. The Arkansas Racing Commission will regulate sports betting in the State.
Arkansas has a long history with gambling and once rivaled Las Vegas in terms of casino gaming in the1930s. Most of the action revolved around Hot Springs where there were almost a dozen gambling establishments. The gambling industry faded in the post-war era and a conservative movement all but forced casinos underground. Horse racing in the state dates back to 1929 with greyhound racing being established in 1957. Arkansas’ two tracks were permitted to offer video poker, slots and tables that required skill in 2005 before adding games of chance in 2012. Online gambling is still quite restricted in Arkansas with the state’s residents and visitors permitted to only wager on racing via mobile devices or on the internet at either of the race tracks: Oaklawn Racing & Gaming and Southland Park Gaming & Racing. In November 2018, Arkansas voters approved “Issue 4” which was a constitutional amendment that allowed expanded gambling, including sports betting, to four counties of “The Natural State”. Betting on sporting events was specifically included under current laws of permissible casino gaming, meaning legalized sports betting is most certainly coming soon to Arkansas.