10 Things You Should Know About Gambling in Arkansas (But May Not)

by Gwen Moritz  on Monday, Sep. 9, 2013 12:00 am  

• Legally speaking, gambling in Arkansas is limited to:

º Oaklawn Park thoroughbred horse racing track at Hot Springs, Southland Park greyhound track at West Memphis and their associated "racinos" — casino-like facilities offering "electronic games of skill";

º The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery; and

º Bingo games and raffles operated by eligible nonprofit organizations.

• The state collected almost $270,000 in tax on bingo "faces" — that is, individual game cards — in the fiscal year that ended on June 30. Each bingo face is taxed at 3/10 of a cent, indicating that more than 89 million bingo cards were sold in the 12-month period.

• The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery sold $440 million worth of tickets in the fiscal year the ended June 30, down from $477 million sold the previous fiscal year. Of the fiscal 2013 receipts, $89.1 million — about 20 percent — was available for college scholarships. Most of the rest was paid out in winnings.

• Money wagered at Southland and Oaklawn eclipses lottery ticket sales in Arkansas. In the recently ended fiscal year, a total of $3.17 billion was wagered at the two racing and gaming parks, and almost 95 percent of that — $2.99 billion — was wagered on electronic games rather than horse or dog races.

• Dog racing at Southland generated wagers of $47.2 million in fiscal 2013, and only $18.2 million of that was on live races, which are run year-round. A whopping $1.96 billion was bet on electronic games at Southland during the 12-month period.

• The season for live horse racing at Oaklawn lasts only from mid-January to mid-April, but more than twice as much was wagered on live horse racing ($40.4 million) than at Southland. Another $35.1 million was bet on simulcast races, which are televised from other racetracks throughout the year.

• "Instant Racing," an Oaklawn invention and the horse track's first electronic game, has been described as a slot machine based on random, actual historical horse races. It brought in $90.8 million in the most recent fiscal year.

• Almost 90 percent of the $1.16 billion wagered at Oaklawn last year came from electronic games other than Instant Racing.

• In the last two months of the fiscal year, May and June 2013, the monthly spreadsheets maintained by the Arkansas Racing Commission included "patron payout" totals for the electronic games at both Oaklawn and Southland. While the data is limited to just those two months, the pattern is clear: between 93 percent and 93.4 percent of the money wagered on electronic games is paid back as winnings. Of the less than 7 percent that is left from electronic gaming wagers, 18 percent is paid in state taxes.

• Southland and Oaklawn paid $38.3 million in taxes on wagered money, and like the wagers themselves, most of that came from electronic games.



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