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Arkansas Poker Laws

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arkansas_welcomeArkansas’ gambling laws are already pretty broad, but to further bolster their effect, the legislature starts the section in gambling laws with this directive:

“(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.
(b) In all cases where construction is necessary, the construction shall be in favor of the prohibition and against the offender.” (1)

So in some cases the applicability of certain sections in gambling law may be unclear, particularly when it comes to how they would be interpreted in cases where the law may not have contemplated certain things, such as internet wagering for example, and this directs judges to take the broadest interpretation of the law as opposed to a more narrow one that might hold that since a certain form of gambling is distinctive from what is described as being prohibited, it may escape the grasp of the law.

So now let’s look at what the law does say about gambling in Arkansas. The law in this state, at least in terms of gambling, does not rely on definitions such as a lot of states do, and that’s because the prohibitions here are broad enough to not really require them.

As far as poker playing goes, the pertinent section in the Arkansas criminal code reads as follows:

“If a person bets any money or any valuable thing on any game of brag, bluff, poker, seven-up, three-up, twenty-one, vingt-et-un, thirteen cards, the odd trick, forty-five, whist, or at any other game of cards known by any name now known to the law or with any other or new name or without any name, upon conviction he or she is guilty of a violation and shall be fined in any sum not less than ten dollars ($10.00) nor more than twenty-five dollars ($25).” (2)


So Therefore Betting On Card Games Is Illegal In Arkansas

It’s hard to imagine a law more clear than this, this prohibits betting on card games and mentions poker specifically, and also mentions that this applies to any game of cards.

One may claim though that playing cards on the internet does not involve the actual use of cards, and this is exactly the sort of thing that the construction directive is designed to address.

If it is argued that internet poker does not involve the use of cards as we normally think of it, while this might appear to be a weak distinction at best anyway, and we would normally think of internet poker as involving cards even though they don’t involve a physical deck of cards, and only involve representations of cards, the construction directive serves to slam the door shut on this weak argument, as it prescribes that any presumption here to elude the law based upon such distinctions be presumed to be in favor of the prohibition.

You will notice that this has nothing to do with elements of chance or the element of skill, it merely involves betting on games involving cards, and all games involving cards, and the element of chance here isn’t relevant because the law does not require any such elements, or rather does not distinguish such elements.

So they simply and elegantly avoid any such arguments of the elements of chance and skill, although betting on games of skill is also an offense in Arkansas, listed in a separate section. (3)

So it really is as simple as that here when it comes to betting on poker, it is a violation, although the penalties here are very modest and therefore this might not serve as much of a deterrent, where folks face a fine of only up to $25. This might be perceived to be more like a slap on the wrist to a lot of poker players actually.


Playing Poker In Arkansas

There is only one regulated live poker room in Arkansas, at the Southland Park Gaming and Racing facility located in West Memphis. It features a total of 6 poker tables and has both cash and tournament action.

Since all non-regulated betting on cards is illegal in Arkansas, home games are included as well. The state of Arkansas has been known to aggressively crack down on illegal gambling establishments, but aren’t known to go after private games, and once again given the very light fine that is handed down here even if you do get caught, it is reasonable that home game players probably don’t worry much about this.

Arkansas is pretty clearly one of many states in the country who focus almost exclusively on the running and not so much the partaking in gambling, so even though betting on poker is not legal, these things do need to be put into perspective.

There is no will at the moment to regulate online poker in Arkansas like there is in a few states these days, and we will likely need to see much more of an expansion on live regulated poker in the state before that becomes a real possibility.

In the mean time, poker players from Arkansas enjoy access to the full selection of offshore poker sites that allow players from select states to participate. In spite of the existing law, a great deal of poker players from Arkansas have not been put out by it and have chosen to take advantage of the ongoing opportunities here.

While it is not our place to advise you, should you also choose to do so, we have some strong choices, although the very best is Ignition Poker and Casino (review linked). They’re one of the best options we recommend for players in this state and of course in the USA in general.

We love this particular site in general and as far as the ones that you can access while living in Arkansas, this one of the most trusted. Enjoy!



(1)  2010 Arkansas Code, 5-66-101, Construction of Statutes

(2) 2010 Arkansas Code, 5-66-112, Card Games – Betting

(3) 2010 Arkansas Code, 5-66-113, Games of Hazard or Skill – Betting

(4) All Arkansas Live and Online Poker Rooms

About the Author

Sadonna Price
Author Sadonna is a mom of two and an avid poker player who also enjoys online casino games. She has been part of the online gambling industry for over a decade, working as a news and blog writer. Sadonna still plays Texas hold’em in her free time while her daily job revolves around providing insights into the online gambling world using her creativity and writing skills.