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Arkansas Poker Laws

Arkansas PokerArkansas is a trivial state when it comes to their stance on gambling in general. If you look at the laws of the state most gambling is strictly prohibited. According to the law nonprofit bingo establishments can apply for a license to operate. You will find bingo halls in almost every county in Arkansas. Arkansas is also home to horse racing at Oaklawn Park and dog racing at Southland Park.

In 2008, Arkansas voters approved a measure to legalize the selling of lottery tickets. This approval was after several failed attempts to gain a lottery in the state of Arkansas. The only way that measure passes is due to the fact that all proceeds from the lottery are used to fund a scholarship program for Arkansas students that attend college in the state. [1]

In 2006, Southland Park added renovations that included gaming to their offerings. The gaming offered in the beginning was slim, but at the current time Southland Park offers poker, craps, blackjack, slots, and just about any casino game you can imagine. It is unclear how they are allowed to operate this casino in Arkansas, but they certainly are. According to the laws in Arkansas this is illegal, but I am sure that they have not spent the millions in renovations without some kind of prior knowledge that they were going to be allowed to operate the casino. [2]

So, as I stated earlier, Arkansas is a very trivial state when it comes to poker laws and gambling laws in general. The laws say one thing, but their actions say something entirely different. Arkansas has one casino operating currently, and poker player Nancy Todd wants to add 4 more casinos to the mix. She has started collecting signatures to get the measure on the ballot. It is unclear at this time if the voters in Arkansas will pass this measure if it does get on the ballot.

Can Players From Arkansas Play Poker Online?

Yes! Arkansas has not made a clear stance on the legality of online poker. Currently there have been no laws strictly prohibiting online poker. Online poker players from Arkansas can play at all poker websites that offer poker play in the United States. The selection gets slimmer as the UIGEA cracks down on the major poker sites, but there are still plenty of places for Arkansans to play real money poker games online.

Is it Legal to Play Poker Online in Arkansas?

There are currently no specific laws that address playing poker online in Arkansas. As with most states, the current laws about gambling are vague when you consider them in the context of playing online. Arkansas does have a law against betting on any game of chance, but it is not clear if they consider poker a game of chance.

It is also not clear how Arkansas can have a lottery which is clearly a game of chance or how they can have a full casino in West Memphis at the dog track. Arkansas laws develop more questions than answers when it comes to land based gambling and online gambling. [3]

We have a few facts about online gambling in Arkansas below:

  • Arkansas does not currently have any specific regulations in regards to gambling online.
  • Arkansas laws specifically say that betting on games of chance is illegal, but there is a full service casino in West Memphis.
  • Nonprofit organizations in Arkansas hold regular poker tournaments.
  • No individual has ever been criminalized for playing online poker in the state of Arkansas to date.
  • Bingo games are legal in nonprofit organizations, and these organizations host machines such as video poker and keno for players to bet and win real money.

Arkansas Gambling History

As conservative as Arkansas is currently, it will surprise a lot of people to know that at one time Arkansas was the largest gambling center in America. In the 1930s and 1940s Hot Springs was hopping with more than 10 casinos and horse racing. People were flocking to this town to do their betting. The mob presence in the casino scene and in law enforcement enabled Hot Springs to continue operating their casinos for many years. [4]

In fact, it wasn’t until 1967 that the casinos were shut down. Arkansas had a new Republican governor, and he ordered that the places be shut down and that the equipment was to be burned. After that, Arkansas saw little action in the way of gaming for many years. There was the dog races in West Memphis and the horse races in Hot Springs, but most people who wanted to go to an actual casino would travel to Tunica, MS. [5]

The dog races in West Memphis are just a few miles away from Tunica, but they could not draw the crowds like Tunica could because they did not have much to offer gamblers. They started adding a few slot machines in hopes of attracting some of the traffic that was driving by their establishment to go to the casinos in Tunica. By 2006, they spent millions of dollars on renovations that added tons of new games for casino players. By 2011, they completed even more renovations and now offer a full service casino that does attract a lot of people that would have initially traveled into Mississippi to play.

Bingo in Arkansas dates back to the early days. Nonprofit bingo halls and bingo halls that profited were prevalent around the state up until 2006. The state decided that bingo was illegal based on the state laws and shut down all of the establishments. In 2007, Arkansas decided that nonprofit organizations could resume their bingo operations, but the state receives revenue from the sale of bingo equipment. This includes all cards, dabbers, and anything else sold for the purpose of playing bingo. Nonprofit bingo halls opened their doors back up around the state, but unfortunately they no longer make as much money for their charities because the Arkansas government now takes a fee out of everything they do.

The Arkansas State Lottery that was approved by voters in 2008. The profit from the lottery is used solely to award scholarships to Arkansas residents that attend college in the state of Arkansas. To date millions of dollars have been awarded to students.

Legalized Gambling Options in Arkansas

Currently the regulated gambling options in Arkansas are slim. Arkansas offers a state lottery which is regulated. Nonprofit bingo halls are also regulated by the state of Arkansas. The dog races and horse races are regulated by the Arkansas Racing Commission. The Arkansas Racing Commission appears to be the entity that regulates that gaming at Southland Park as well, but this is unclear.

Will Arkansas Legalize Online Poker in the Future?

The general consensus is that Arkansas will immediately opt out of any federal mandate to legalize online poker. I am not sure that I agree with this consensus though. Arkansas is a very odd state, and I think that the voters might legalize online poker if it is put on the ballot. The only way that Arkansans would legalize it is if the profits go to a cause that Arkansans believe strongly in. If the profits enhanced the scholarship program then I think that Arkansans would be for it, but that is just my opinion.

References:

  1. Jump up ^ Arkansas State Lottery
  2. Jump up ^ Gaming at Southland Park
  3. Jump up ^ Arkansas State Gambling Laws
  4. Jump up ^ Organized Crime Haven in Hot Springs
  5. Jump up ^ A History of Hot Springs
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