Last updated: May 20, 2022
Arkansas sports betting is legal at the state’s three casinos and online as well.
Until March 5, 2022, legal sports bets in Arkansas required a trip to one of three casino locations. A rule change in late 2021 received approval in February 2022, though, which approved expansion online.
Given the fact that online sports betting often represents more than 90% of the activity in other states, Arkansas is poised to reach a new paradigm for the market. Read on for potential sportsbooks coming to Arkansas and the details about the law.
What’s happening in Arkansas sports betting right now
- May 19, 2022 – Betly’s online sportsbook accounted for nearly 40% of total handle in April, which went most of the month without its iOS app. All eyes will be on May’s report to see how much BetSaracen eats into that market share after launching mid-May.
- May 12, 2022 – The BetSaracen sports betting app is now live, which means the mobile Arkansas sports betting market has multiple operators after Betly launched first late in April.
- April 26, 2022 – Southland launched the Betly sportsbook for Apple devices, marking the first iOS sports betting app live in the state.
- April 18, 2022 – Southland’s Betly online sportsbook took $3.3 million in handle during its first month of operation without its app available in the iOS or Google Play stores yet. That was good for 30.9% of the sports betting handle bet in Arkansas in March.
- April 6, 2022 – Bet Saracen is still waiting on external vendors to launch its mobile app, according to the brand’s Twitter account.
- March 31, 2022 – Bet Saracen received certification but is still waiting on payment vendors and to be listed in app stores, according to the brand’s Twitter account.
- March 28, 2022 – The Elite Eight is over and Arkansas still does not have a mobile sportsbook. Bet Saracen, which expected to be live in time for March Madness betting, is still waiting on necessary approvals to launch.
- March 5, 2022 – Southland launched its desktop online Betly sportsbook site for the first online operation in the state. The initial launch does not include mobile apps.
- Feb. 22, 2022 – Mobile sportsbooks can launch in early March after the Joint Budget Committee approved a rule change allowing two mobile sportsbooks for each of the three land-based casinos.
Is sports betting legal in Arkansas?
Yes. Sports betting has been legal in Arkansas since November 2018 and is available at the state’s three casinos. Voters approved a constitutional amendment with a 54% yes vote to expand the scope of activities at the three casino venues in the state. There was no provision in the amendment for online sports betting.
Following a recent vote by the Arkansas Racing Commission, online sports betting could become a legal activity in Arkansas sometime in early 2022.
When will online sports betting launch in Arkansas?
At least one online sportsbook, Bet Saracen, should be available before the start of March Madness betting.
Bet Saracen will take up one of the six available skins in the market, but it is unclear how quickly other apps may launch.
The only thing that could stop a potential launch is legal action from the national sportsbooks fighting against a mandatory 51% revenue split for the casino operators.
Sportsbook apps that could debut in Arkansas
The online sports betting rules in Arkansas allow for as many as eight online sportsbooks to launch in the state. Although officials have not issued any licenses yet, there are several likely candidates to be part of the new industry when it opens its virtual doors. Here are the sportsbook apps that seem like best bets to become available in Arkansas:
Caesars Sportsbook is the sports betting wing of one of the world’s largest gambling companies. Caesars is already partnered with Gulfside Casino Partnership, which is the soon-to-be owner/operator of the fourth casino in Arkansas, River Valley Casino, in Russellville.
DraftKings is the DFS-provider-turned-sportsbook that has become one of the premier players in US sports betting in the past few years. DraftKings is already a familiar commodity in Arkansas due to its daily fantasy sports operations, which have been explicitly legal in the state since 2017. DraftKings merged with SBTech, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort’s sports betting partner, in 2020. DraftKings’ presence at the December 2021 Arkansas Racing Commission meeting all but confirms that it plans to offer service in Arkansas.
FanDuel is the other DFS provider that has blossomed into a full-service gambling company in the past few years. Its easy-to-navigate app and various promotions have propelled it to the top of the market in several areas of the country. FanDuel has also partnered with gambling technology provider IGT in the past, and IGT powers the sports betting operations at both Southland Casino Racing and Saracen Casino Resort.
BetMGM Sportsbook has been at the forefront of online sports betting launches in multiple states in the past few years. MGM is active in the region and maintains two casino properties in neighboring Mississippi. BetMGM also revealed its intentions by virtue of its presence at the December 2021 meeting of the Arkansas Racing Commission.
Betly Sportsbook is the house brand sportsbook for Delaware North, which owns several casino locations throughout the United States. Betly is not a major player in the US sports betting market and has only launched in West Virginia so far. Delaware North owns Southland Casino, however, and the debut of online sports betting in Arkansas may inspire the company’s leadership to think about a second state for operations.
TwinSpires Sportsbook is the sports betting wing of Churchill Downs Inc., the company that owns the world-famous horse track of the same name. Churchill Downs notably celebrated the debut of retail sports betting at Oaklawn in 2019 due to its association with platform provider SBTech. Although SBTech’s merger with DraftKings casts doubt on Churchill’s connection to Arkansas, the popularity of horse betting and Kentucky’s relative proximity to Arkansas could mean that TwinSpires Sportsbook has plans to expand into the state.
Other possible apps
With as many as eight online sportsbooks possible in Arkansas, other companies are likely to throw their hats in the ring. The following sportsbooks haven’t made many moves in the state so far, but they could show up as part of the market nonetheless:
As the launch date approaches, we will update and edit this list as needed. Both the racing commission and the sportsbooks are likely to begin clarifying the picture in the next few months.
Latest Arkansas sports betting news
Arkansas sports betting basics
Arkansas sports betting is legal. State voters opted in November 2018 to legalize retail sports betting at up to four locations in Arkansas. The new vertical of the gaming industry is regulated by the Arkansas Racing Commission.
Mobile sports betting could launch in early 2022 following the adoption of new rules by the Arkansas Racing Commission. The state’s casinos are allowed to partner with up to two mobile sportsbook brands. In addition, each book must pay 51% of its revenue from sports betting back to the government as tax.
A lobbyist for the sportsbooks attempted to persuade the racing commission that the rate was overly restrictive. Representatives for the state’s casinos fought back and cited New York’s model as a counterexample to the claim that such a high rate was unworkable. The latter argument ended up winning the day, and the rules moved forward in their most recent incarnation.
Where to bet on sports in Arkansas
There are three sportsbooks in service in Arkansas. Each book is located at one of Arkansas’ three casinos. A fourth casino, under construction in Pope County, is planning to include a retail sportsbook, as well.
Mobile sportsbooks can launch in March 2022. Bet Saracen expects to be live before March Madness.
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort
Oaklawn is the oldest and most prestigious of Arkansas’ gambling locations. It has served as a premier horse racing facility for more than a century. Notably, it is the home of the Arkansas Derby, a Grade I thoroughbred race with a purse exceeding $1 million. Oaklawn was the first facility in Arkansas to accept sports bets and opened its sportsbook in July 2019. The sportsbook is a full-service facility with teller windows and kiosks available to receive wagers.
Southland Casino Racing
Southland is the other facility in Arkansas to offer horse racing for viewing and wagering. Its approach to sports betting is less formal than at Oaklawn. Although there is a full-service sportsbook with tellers, it is located in the property’s sports bar and is a more integrated part of the food, drinks, and entertainment options there. Kiosks are scattered around Southland’s grounds for any bettors who want to quickly place their wagers.
Saracen Casino Resort
Saracen is one of the few commercial casinos in the country under tribal ownership. The Quapaw Nation, a federally recognized tribe in Oklahoma, owns the casino and its associated annex as a business venture. There is no actual physical sportsbook at the casino itself. Saracen’s sports betting option is a kiosk in the annex (convenience store) across the street.
River Valley Casino
River Valley Casino is the planned fourth casino in Arkansas. It is scheduled to open in Pope County at a yet-unannounced location sometime in the near future. The owner of the project, Gulfside Casino Partnership, also has two casinos in Mississippi in its portfolio. Details about River Valley remain scarce, but it could include a full-service sportsbook as part of its offering.
Most popular sports to bet on in Arkansas
Arkansas’ sports betting law does not contain many restrictions. The only things the law explicitly prohibits betting on are political elections and virtual sports. Football is the most popular sport for betting in every state in the US, including Arkansas. Other sports that Arkansans can bet on include the following:
- Mixed martial arts (MMA)
- Motor sports
Some of these sports offer different levels available for wagering — both college and professional games are on the table. Here are some of the most popular teams for betting in Arkansas:
- Arkansas Razorbacks (NCAA)
- Arkansas State Red Wolves (NCAA)
- Arkansas at Little Rock Trojans (NCAA)
- Arkansas at Pine Bluff Golden Lions (NCAA)
- Central Arkansas Bears (NCAA)
- Dallas Cowboys (NFL)
- Dallas Mavericks (NBA)
- Dallas Stars (NHL)
- Kansas City Chiefs (NFL)
- Kansas City Royals (MLB)
- Memphis Grizzlies (NBA)
- St. Louis Blues (NHL)
- St. Louis Cardinals (MLB)
- Texas Rangers (MLB)
This list is not exhaustive by any means. The NCAA teams offer football and basketball, of course, and each of Arkansas’ sportsbooks will have options for any major professional sports event or team.
DFS in Arkansas
Arkansans have been able to play daily fantasy sports contests legally for several years. Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed off on HB 2250 in April 2017 to allow DFS sites to legally operate in the state. Top DFS providers like DraftKings and FanDuel have been part of the landscape ever since.
The legalization was the first in 2017 and the ninth overall. For the most part, the law does not come with many restrictions or consumer protections for participating in the contests. DFS sites must pay a flat 8% tax to the state, and that’s the primary mission of the four-page act.
Is horse betting legal in Arkansas?
Yes. It is legal to bet on horse races in Arkansas in both live and online formats. In fact, Arkansas is home to one of the more prestigious races in the country — the Arkansas Derby. It runs every April at Oaklawn Park and features 3-year-old thoroughbreds running 1⅛ miles on dirt for a $1.25 million purse. Notable winners of the Arkansas Derby include Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones, and Preakness and Belmont winner Afleet Alex.
Arkansans need not go to Oaklawn Park if they want to wager on races there or anywhere else in the country. Arkansas permits its residents to bet through online horse betting sites. Of those, one of the best options remains TVG. TVG is both a betting site and a broadcast network dedicated to horseracing. If you want to improve your horse betting knowledge, TVG is a solid choice.
Arkansas is also home to one of the few active greyhound tracks remaining in the country. Greyhounds race from January to September each year at Southland Casino Racing and offer many of the same options for wagering as the ponies. Greyhound racing has become less popular over time due to concerns over the treatment of the animals, but Arkansans can still take part in the activity if they choose to journey to West Memphis.
Arkansas sports betting timeline
Arkansas’ experience with sports betting has been a slow burn. Voters approved the activity in November 2018 as a constitutional amendment. Oaklawn accepted the first wager in July 2019. However, it has remained an in-person activity in the Natural State, even as other states have experienced success in the online sphere. Now that online sports betting appears to be on the way, here’s a rundown of all the relevant moves that have led to this point:
The Arkansas Racing Commission’s new rules for online sports betting received legislative approval in late February. That means mobile sports betting can launch in early March 2022.
In-person sports betting continues to trudge forward in Arkansas at the three casino locations in the state. Construction continues on the Pope County casino, but no firm opening date for either the sportsbook or the casino itself is available.
The biggest news about sports betting in Arkansas in 2021 does not come until the waning days of the year in December. The Arkansas Racing Commission passes a set of rules to regulate and manage online sports betting. The rules involve a heavy tax structure, similar to that of New York, and allow for the possibility of as many as eight legal online sportsbooks in the state.
Another sportsbook opens its doors for business in 2020. Southland Casino Racing accepts its first sports wager in January. It then endures a closure due to pandemic concerns before reopening in September.
No bills or legislative motions occur due to the Arkansas legislative schedule. Lawmakers meet only in odd-numbered years in the Natural State.
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort plays host to the first legal sports bet in Arkansas history in July. Wayne Smith, Oaklawn’s general manager, kicks things off with a $5 wager on the Dallas Cowboys. Oaklawn ultimately enjoys a six-month de facto monopoly on sports betting in Arkansas. However, due to state law, people must place their bets in person at the facility in Hot Springs.
A second sports betting location goes live in Arkansas in October, in a muted context. The Saracen Casino Annex, the first phase of the new Jefferson County casino, offers a sports betting kiosk for players to make their wagers. To this day, service at Saracen continues in this fashion.
Some Arkansas lawmakers are rumbling about revising the law to include online sports betting. State Sen. Will Bond introduces SB 669 as a law to permit “licensed on-site and electronic wagering on athletic events by certain entities.” The bill does not go far and dies within a month of its introduction in April.
Voters approve Arkansas Issue 4 on the November ballot. The measure, an initiated constitutional amendment, permits the introduction of sports betting to the state’s two casino locations as part of a broader gambling expansion. There is no provision for online sports betting in the measure, however. All wagers must be in-person. The initiative also calls for the creation of two new casinos in Jefferson and Pope counties, each with its own sportsbook. The Jefferson location has since opened as the Saracen Casino Resort, and the Pope County property is still under construction as the River Valley Casino.
Who will oversee online sports betting in Arkansas?
The Arkansas Racing Commission. As is the case in many states without a dedicated gambling commission, the ARC acts as the oversight agency for all gambling in the state despite its nominal restriction to racing-based gaming. The Commission promulgated the rules for online sports betting in Arkansas, it will manage the new market, too.
What is the legal gambling age in Arkansas?
You must be 21 or older to participate in sports betting in Arkansas.
There are some sports betting websites that say they accept bets from Arkansas. Are those legal options?
No. Those sites are based outside of the United States and are not bound to comply with Arkansas or US law. As such, they come with a host of risks that go beyond the vig you’ll have to pay. Playing on any site with its headquarters and/or servers located in a foreign country puts your money at risk.