Online poker has become a multi-billion dollar industry over the last decade. Things really started picking up in 2003, and before we knew it, there were millions of Americans playing online poker. Passage of the UIGEA in 2006 caused a notable decline in online gambling throughout the US, but it wasn’t until the ominous Black Friday of Online Poker (April 15, 2011) that players in Arkansas and all across America found themselves cut off from the world’s largest poker rooms, like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.
The entire world was shocked when, in December of that same year, the US Department of Justice, which had been striving so hard to prohibit all forms of online gambling for five years, unexpectedly reversed its opinion. The DOJ declared it was the right of individual states to determine whether such activities should be legal within their own borders. All of a sudden, players were paying close attention to their legislators in hopes of seeing new regulation of online poker laws in Arkansas.
Legality of Online Poker Arkansas
Arkansas has some pretty strict laws against certain forms of gambling, which cover just about anything outside of horse and greyhound race betting, state organized lottery games and charitable bingo games/raffle exhibitions. There are two race betting tracks, but no casinos in Arkansas because all forms of casino gambling are considered unlawful by Arkansas Statutes. The laws regarding gambling in Arkansas have not been significantly updated in many years, and therefore don’t specifically have any correlation with “online” wagering, but could easily be interpreted as such. In the following section, we’ll review the gambling laws in Arkansas that relate to online poker, followed by a brief discussion on whether those laws look to be changing anytime in the near future.
Arkansas Statutes – Gambling Laws
Arkansas legislation is fairly precise in what citizens of the state can and cannot do in terms of gambling, and anything that isn’t specifically defined as unlawful can also be considered illegal gambling thanks to the following ‘Construction of Statues’, applied to the Gambling section of the Arkansas Statues and Codes, Title 5-66-101, which reads:
Construction of Statues:
(a) In their construction of the statutes prohibiting gaming, the judges of the several courts in this state shall construe the statutes liberally, with a view of preventing persons from evading the penalty of the law by changing of the name or the invention of new names or devices that now are, or may hereafter be, brought into practice, in any and in all kinds of gaming, and all general terms of descriptions shall be so construed as to have effect, and include all such games and devices as are not specially named.
The definitions and penalties for unlawful gambling Arkansas include:
Gaming devices – Prohibition:
(a) It is unlawful for a person to set up, keep, or exhibit any gaming table or gambling device, commonly called “A. B. C.”, “E. O.”, roulette, or rouge et noir, any faro bank, or any other gaming table or gambling device, or bank of the like or similar kind, or of any other description although not named in this section, regardless of the name or denomination, either:
(1) Adapted, devised, or designed for the purpose of playing any game of chance; or
(2) At which any money or property may be won or lost.
(b) Upon conviction, a person who violates this section is guilty of an unclassified misdemeanor and shall be fined in any sum not less than one hundred dollars ($100) and may be imprisoned any length of time not less than thirty (30) days nor more than one (1) year.
Gaming devices – Betting:
(a) 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 5-66-104.
(b) Upon conviction, a person who violates this section is guilty of a violation and shall be fined in any sum not exceeding one hundred dollars ($100) nor less than fifty dollars ($50.00).
A host of other gambling laws and definitions are found in the Arkansas Statutes, but those listed above cover everything you need to know for the purpose of this article, particularly the legalities of online poker in Arkansas. Operation of a gambling house/establishment, whether on land or by boat, is strictly prohibited in the state, as well. If you wish to read these laws in full, please refer to the link at the beginning of this section.
What does it all mean? Is online poker illegal in Arkansas?
Legal jargon isn’t always the easiest to comprehend, but in the case of Arkansas’ gambling laws, it’s pretty cut and dry. The definition of Gaming devices – betting tells us that players are breaking the law by wagering on any form of gambling that is prohibited. The definition of Gaming devices – prohibition clearly states that all games of chances are illegal, as are any games in which any property/money can be won. That means whether the game is dominated by chance or skill, if there’s money or something of value involved, it’s illegal by Arkansas state law; i.e. poker and other card games.
The fact that online gambling or online poker are not specifically mentioned doesn’t create a loophole, either. The Construction of Statutes, wherein the most important literature is highlighted in red at the top of this section, eliminates all possible ambiguities in regards to the laws of online poker in Arkansas. It states that any game that falls into the guidelines of prohibited betting or gambling devices that aren’t specifically mentioned, are named something else or appear after the law was enacted are still considered illegal in the state.
Is Arkansas working to legalize online poker?
Unfortunately, the law makers in Arkansas are currently showing no interest in the legalization of online poker, or any other forms of online gambling. Perhaps if and when the US government ordains regulatory laws for online poker on a federal level, Arkansas officials will begin to discuss the matter. Until then, it’s a waiting game; more than likely a long one at that.