Arkansans’ attitudes toward NFLbets’ two main areas of concern are right in line with those of their fellow members of the CSA: The citizenry is perpetually gaga for football and reticent to allow much of that Bacchanalian gambling stuff. But it wasn’t always this way, and the betting games in parts of Arkansas in early 20th century are legendary.
Betting in Arkansas
The short story on Arkansas gambling: Visit Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs or the Southland Greyhound Park in West Memphis for a full range of betting options (not to mention one of the world’s last operatig greyhound tracks at the latter) from live racing to simulcast events to casino games to poker. Elsewhere in the state, forget it.
Why? Well, the long version of the story involves nearly a century of organized crime interests fleecing tourists and skimping the government of their share in illegal gambling. After a series of busts in the 1950s and 60s, Arkansas gambling was basically reset to the Puritan days the state never truly had and only recently are even the most basic games of chance legally permitted in most of Arkansas.
Arkansas’s biggest tourist draws from the 1880s into the 20th century were Eureka Springs and Hot Springs. Extending the railroad into the Ozarks brought tourists to Eureka Springs, swelling the population to over 10,000 by 1900. At that time, dozens of houses offering various forms of betting games and other vice were open for business in Eureka Springs. A horse racing track also did brisk trade; betting was not standardized, regulated or legal at the Eureka Springs track, but…
Hot Springs was the posher of the two draws, attracting the grandest celebrities as the age such as Al Capone, Babe Ruth and Franklin Roosevelt. Organized crime had a hand in (by state law, illegal) gambling in Hot Springs since 1870 and illegal betting operations ran continuously in the town until 1967 (!!!), peaking at 103 gaming houses in the 1920s. The Oaklawn Park horse racing track, which opened in 1905 thanks in no small part to organized crime interests, is still in operation today.
As mentioned above, the state was finally cleared of betting games run by organized crime in 1967 after two decades’ worth of operations in Arkansas by county, state and federal law enforcement. No change came to this area of Arkansas state law until 2009, when the state lottery was introduced and slots/electronic games were offered at the two race tracks.
In early 2017, Arkansas became one of the first states to enact DFS-specific law. How legislators ruled, as a clickbait headline would go, might surprise you. See below.
Football in Arkansas
First and lengthiest entry in any text about “football in Arkansas” would be the entry entitled “University of Arkansas Razorbacks,” The state’s’ beloved team of national prominence has one title – won following the 1964 season – and at least one other season of legend (1977). Since first beginning play as the Arkansas Cardinals in 1894, Arkansas has become a top-25 all-time college football program and is usually ranked accordingly year to year.
After spending several years playing a sporadic schedule characteristic of those days, the team had run up an overall record of 37-34-7 through the 1907. The Cardinals became the Razorbacks after their first truly dominant season of ’09, in which they went 7-0 and outscored opponents 186-18. Beginning with this second year of Hugo Bezdek as head coach, the Razorbacks would go a cumulative 109-58-9 between 1908 and ’28, a .619 winning percentage representing an average season of 5-3 or 5-2-1.
From 1927 to ’49, the Razorbacks played through ups and downs, earning three bowl bids in the 23 seasons, going 1-1-1. As with so many prominent programs, it took one coach to teach the Razorbacks winning ways and put the team into the big time. For Arkansas, that coach was Frank Broyles, who took control of the team of 1958 and stuck around through ’76, leading Razorbacks teams to an 144–58–5 record and nine bowl appearances, peaking in the aforementioned ’64 season: Arkansas finished an 11-0 season with a 10-7 win over no. 6 Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl.
For the 1977 season, Broyles turned his attention to the University of Arkansas athletic director position and handed the football head coaching duties to a guy coming off a not-so-successful stint with the New York Jets: Lou Holtz. In his first season, Holtz brought the Razorbacks to a 10-1 record and an Orange Bowl bid as the no. 6 team in the nation – yet Arkansas was a 21-point underdog for the game against then-no. 2 Oklahoma. The Razorbacks crushed the Sooners, 31-6, and ended up no. 3 officially. However, statistical reevaluation by the thinktank Foundation for the Analysis of Competitions and Tournaments (FACT) found Arkansas to have been the top team of ’77.
Further apexes in Arkansas Razorbacks history could be seen under the auspices of head coaches Ken Hatfield (1984-89), Houston Nutt (1998-2007) and bobby Petrino (2098-11). Since Petrino, the Razorbacks are in a bit of a historical lull, having last achieved a winning record in 2014.
Ranking maybe a footnote in Arkansas football are a pair of flirtations by would-be professional football leagues with the state. For example, ever heard of the Continental Football League? Presented as an alternative to NFL *and* AFL football in smaller markets, the semipro CFL (wait a minute; they can’t have that acronym!) ran from 1965 to ’69; the Arkansas Diamonds (ooh, good name) played in Conway and Little Rock in the final two years of the league and ran up a 7-17 record.
And that’s about it for professional football in Arkansas, unless you count the Arkansas Attack (brutal name, just brutal) of Major League Football. Set to play a 10-game schedule, the league barely got past the launch-a-website phase into assigning one player to each of eight would-be teams before folding in advance of opening day kickoff. Considering that the Attack head coach was slated to be Dave Campo, football-loving Arkansans who might’ve given a damn dodged a bullet here. Gee, we sure have come a long way since the days of the USFL…
Betting on Football in Arkansas
If the Arkansas legal system are as much sticklers for the law as they appear to be, even those who participate in legal gambling – and all betting except that offered at the two aforementioned tracks – have little to fear in Arkansas: State law, unchanged since 1967, calls for a fine of up to $25 for the guilty party.
However, Arkansas legislators showed remarkable vision in writing into state law a clause regarding cash-based daily fantasy sports online. After examination, shaping and the usual politicking in 2016, the bill was signed into law by governor Asa Hutchinson in April ’17. Done in the fashion of legislature in European nations and Canadian provinces since the 1990s, the law calls for would-be DFS providers to be licensed by the state and pay taxes based on income earned from players in Arkansas.
As of mid-2018, Arkansas has no law regarding betting on football either online or at OTB-like shops, but the forward-thinking law of 2017 certainly gives the state’s residents hope that Arkansas will be the first to allow full-on fully legal betting of football.