Like every other state, Arkansas is home to a lot of poker lovers. The only difference between Arkansas and some other places is that it has a reputation as a conservative state with a strict position on real cash poker. This means that its resident gamblers do not have the freedom to exercise their gambling rights as they would in some other cities in the US. Heck, they even risk jail-time if caught gambling. While poker and other forms of gambling are tricky business in Arkansas, you can find a way around that situation.
Brief History of Poker in Arkansas
Given its current stance on gambling, Arkansas has quite an interesting history when it comes to poker. Once upon a time, Arkansas was a hotbed for gambling activity in the US. In the early 1900s (circa 1930s), there were at least ten casinos and lots of horse racing in the Hot Springs area. Poker, crap games, and other forms of gambling thrived in that period and in that area to the point that hordes of gamblers flocked in to satisfy their betting lust.
Every good story has a twist, and like all good stories, the Arkansas twist came when gambling-related crime became a thorny issue for the authorities. The only natural step was to take an anti-gambling stance that they didn’t quite achieve until 1967. In 1967, governor Winthrop Rockefeller adopted a hardline position that saw the shutting down of casinos and the end of almost a century of legit gaming in Arkansas.
Not to be deterred by this turn of events, poker players and indeed gamblers in Arkansas had to travel to nearby Mississippi to explore their gaming options. So, instead of folks trooping in to gamble in Arkansas, gamblers had to move out to places with gambling-friendly laws whenever they got bitten by that gambling bug.
This situation persisted for a while until circa 2000 when the InstantRacing gaming machine (which allows people to bet on past horse races) became a common sight at Arkansas racetracks. By 2005, hosting electronic games of skill became legalized by the state, so blackjack and craps soon came back on the scene. With time, Arkansas racetracks became “racinos”: a blend between casinos and racetrack gambling. By 2007, Arkansas allowed nonprofit organizations to resume their bingo operations on the condition that the get a percentage from the trade of bingo equipment.
The approval of the Arkansas State Lottery in 2008 helped usher in poker to the “racino” circuits. The caveat was that it had to be played at electronic tables.
The Legality of Poker in Arkansas
The Arkansas Racing Commission has absolute powers on all gambling-related issues within the Arkansas area. They make the state laws, one of which is the ruling that live poker games are illegal in Arkansas once winnings of real money are involved.
Interestingly, poker games and tourneys can be held in bars and restaurants. So what gives? These kinds of poker games are considered legal since there are no fees charged for participation. And then, of course, players aren’t supposed to play for real money.
Gamblers in Arkansas can only access a few regulated gambling options (land-based and online). As at the time of this writing, real money poker rooms are absent in Arkansas. The closest to this is the electronic real cash poker tables found at the Oaklawn race track.
The silver lining in the gambling situation in Arkansas is that the law is a bit on the fence regarding the use of online poker sites. Since Arkansas laws do not expressly prohibit online poker, most poker players in Arkansas are exploiting this leeway to its fullest extend. The ones who may have issues with the law are those who manage online games. These persons are often charged with owning gambling equipment and gaining returns from such equipment.
Following the constitutional amendments that permitted four casinos in November 2018, the Arkansas Racing Commission began to regulate casino gambling in Arkansas. The first set of two casinos opened at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs and The Southland Gaming & Racing in West Memphis. Both places opened in April 2019. The others will be built in Pope and Jefferson Counties after the relevant applications and paperwork have been handled.
Poker players in Arkansas can only play live poker at the only regulated poker room at the Southland Park. It was not the best option, though, as only a handful of players got to play at the 6 game tables they have. By late 2018, even this option was gone with the close of the poker room.
Online Poker Sites in Arkansas
Poker players in Arkansas can thank the internet for the opportunity to explore their gambling desires, as there are hordes of international poker websites that accept players from the US and specifically from Arkansas. The best part of online poker is that players can play from the comfort of their homes while enjoying the plethora of benefits that come with playing poker. Here are some of the more popular online poker sites in Arkansas.
Bovada Poker: This site is one of the most popular online poker sites in the US because of its premium game lobby and easy installation. It also boasts a mobile compatible platform and a large player pool. It accepts cryptocurrency and offers a quick withdrawal processing time. One downside is the relative lack of high-limit games.
Ignition Poker: This site offers great customization features, a fast withdrawal pending period, and anonymous tables (in case you’re worried about getting targetted). It also supports cryptocurrency and is easily downloaded and installed. While there is available demo money, players don’t get to view the tables without making deposits. Rakeback is also not available, and the tables take a while to load sometimes.
SportsBetting Poker: This online poker site boasts a range of payment methods, mobile compatibility, and instant play poker options. It also supports cryptocurrency in addition to a user-friendly interface.