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Arkansas Poker Laws & Gambling Legislation

Arkansas Legal Poker & Gambling Options
Arkansas Poker Laws & Gambling Legislation
Last Updated November 2, 2020

The proper way to pronounce Arkansas is actually a matter of law, enshrined in 1881 following what must have been a pretty serious disagreement between two legislators.  Also enshrined in Arkansas law are a number of rules regarding gambling that may have relevance to the modern online gambler – rules that we’ll examine, along with some detours into history, news and analysis, as we wind our way through the ins and outs of both online gambling and land-based betting in Arkansas.

Online Poker in Arkansas

Who plays online poker in Arkansas?  Probably more people than you might think.  The state is home to a large population, several institutions of higher learning and has a long history with several forms of gambling.  That combination suggests that online poker is probably quite popular in Arkansas – as does the number of visitors who come to this guide daily seeking more information about online poker in Arkansas.

Is Gambling Legal in Arkansas?

State Code Section(s); 23.4.110-115; 16.118.103
Definition of GamblingNo definitions are given for gambling, gambler, or games of chance or skill.
Online Poker/GamblingThere has been no consideration given to drafting a proposal to legalize online poker or any other type of online gambling.
Live PokerLive poker is only permitted at the state’s two racinos in table-game form, not as traditional live poker cash games or tournaments. Home poker games are also illegal.
CasinosTwo racetracks in the state have expanded to offer electronic games, slot machines, and table games, per the Local Option Horse Racing and Greyhound Racing Electronic Games of Skill Act of 2005. Traditional live poker is not included, though table game versions of poker are permitted.
Sports BettingArkansas has yet to address the idea of legalized sports betting.
DFSPaid-entry fantasy sports are legal in Arkansas per Act 1075 that passed through the legislature in April 2017. DFS is no longer considered gambling.
Other Forms of GamblingLottery, pari-mutuel wagering on horse and greyhound racing, franchised greyhound racing.

Is Online Poker Legal in Arkansas?

Sure – any number of US online poker sites will take players from Arkansas.  We understand why players from Arkansas ask this question; after all, if you lived in a state like New York you might find that some online poker rooms accepting other players from the US would not let you make an account.  If you live in Arkansas, there is no law stating that it is illegal to play online poker which means there are a number of real money sites to choose from.

All Poker and Gambling Laws by State

Arkansas in the News

Arkansas’ State Codes

This guide to playing online poker in Arkansas is meant to provide basic information and resources related to the topic – not to be the final or authoritative word on whether internet poker is legal in AK.  We strongly advise players to do two things before deciding that online poker does not present a legal risk: First, review the state code of Arkansas directly .  Second, if you have any uncertainties, contact a lawyer with experience in the field for clarification.

Let’s consider a few parts of Arkansas law that are significant for online poker players:

  1. In Arkansas, it’s basically illegal to make a bet on anything, unless the state says otherwise.  As written:
    1. “It is unlawful for any person to bet any money or other valuable thing or any representative of any thing that is esteemed of value on any game prohibited by [Section] 5-66-104” (Section 5-66-106).

  2. Games prohibited include “any game of chance” and any game at which “any money or property may be won.”  That would appear to include poker.
  3. Most of the penalties for simply participating in illegal gambling are violations that carry small fines.  However, it is possible that poker players could also run afoul of laws against “gaming devices” which can result in misdemeanor charges.
  4. There is no law in Arkansas that specifically forbids the playing of online poker.  However, the broad nature of the law means that even forms of gambling that are not specifically named in the code could still be in violation of the law.

The important thing for players when it comes to Arkansas law and online poker is to be aware of the potential legal risks involved and proceed accordingly.  While the chance of running into legal trouble appears quite remote for online poker players from Arkansas, it should still be mandatory for everyone playing poker in the United States to familiarize themselves with state law regarding gambling in general.

Will Arkansas Regulate Online Poker?

We find no support for the idea that Arkansas is interested in regulating online poker.  There have been no indications from anyone in state government that online poker regulation is an issue on the statehouse radar.  If other states in the region move to regulate online poker, it’s possible that Arkansas could join the group and offer online poker to residents, but short of that avenue there aren’t many obvious paths to regulated online poker in the state.

Arkansas Gambling Facts

Those with an interest in gambling history will find a compelling tale or two in Arkansas, especially Hot Springs.  During the waning days of the 1800s, Hot Springs was apparently a bit of a gambling hotspot (primarily for illegal gambling) that evolved into a proto-Las Vegas in the first decades of the twentieth century.  The state’s appetite for gambling subsided around the second World War, and it wasn’t until the next century that Arkansas would seek to again expand gambling within its borders.   

Gamblers in Arkansas looking for betting-based entertainment have a pretty meager set of options.  There’s the recently-introduced state lottery, pari-mutuel wagering on horse and dog races and additional games at the race tracks.  Due to a quirk of state law, all of these games must be “skill” games and also much be electronic in nature.  So, as a result, you can play poker at the Oaklawn race track, but only using electronic tables.

Does Arkansas Offer any Regulated Online Gambling?

There are no regulated online gambling options in Arkansas.  Poker players who want a licensed and regulated online poker experience will have to choose one of the several rooms licensed and regulated by other governments, at least until Arkansas decides to get into the business of regulating online poker.

An interesting conflict between groups looking to break ground on casinos in the state of Arkansas and opponents dominated headlines for much of 2012, but a recent Arkansas Supreme Court decision appears to have put a temporary end to casino expansion in Arkansas.

Arkansas Gambling Resources

Oaklawn Race Track   Arguably the most popular destination for gamblers in Arkansas.  Offers an experience along the lines of a Vegas casino combined with horse racing.  Get complete information about games, entertainment and related topics.

Arkansas Lottery.  Official home of the state lottery for Arkansas.  Find detailed information about the revenue generated by the program, where the money goes and (of course) the different lottery options Arkansas offers to customers.

Inarkansas.com.  Plenty of great information about the state, but our favorite is the link to an in-depth story covering the history of illegal gambling in Hot Springs.

Arkansas’s Place in Poker History

When you talk about Arkansas and poker history, you’re probably going to be primarily talking about the most famous poker players to come from the state (and possibly one of the most famous poker players ever): Amarillo Slim.  While his nickname may make people think of Texas more than Arkansas, Slim was born in Arkansas all the way back in 1928.

About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

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