Q: Somebody told me that you can now bet online on races run at Oaklawn. Is that true? And if so, how is that legal?
A: While the term "off-track betting" is sure to conjure up images of portly dudes in leisure suits milling around in greasy betting parlors while TVs blare out races overhead, betting on the ponies while not actually at the track has gone high tech all over the country in recent years. It's called "Advanced Deposit Wagering," and because of a law passed last year, something similar has made its way to Arkansas.
Act 350 of 2013 allows Arkansas residents to create and deposit money into an online account for wagers by phone or computer on live races or simulcast races at Oaklawn in Hot Springs and Southland Greyhound Park in West Memphis. While the Oaklawn system is up and running at this writing, available 24 hours a day at OaklawnAnywhere.com, the Arkansas Racing Commission said that Southland hasn't set up its system yet. OaklawnAnywhere.com is an updated take on Oaklawn's previous online system, MyOaklawn.com, which allowed Arkansas residents with at least $20 on account with the track to bet on races using smartphones or computers while at Oaklawn.
According to the Frequently Asked Questions page at OaklawnAnywhere.com, there is no minimum deposit required to register and create an account on the site. Registration requires a would-be bettor to input information such as name, address, date of birth and Social Security number. Once the registration is processed, Arkansas residents registered with the site can place bets on Oaklawn's live or simulcast racing from anywhere in the world by telephone (1-844-OAK-BETS), or by using a smartphone or computer. There are no fees to register or bet, though bettors are required to have deposited enough money in their account to cover any wager they make.
Racing Commission Director Ron Oliver said the change in the law ensures that Oaklawn and the state get a share of the online betting on Oaklawn races that was already occurring. In terms of the taxes collected by state and local governments, wagers made at OaklawnAnywhere.com will be treated exactly like bets made in person at the window. While an online bet will never replace the experience of going to the track and watching the fillies prance, Oliver believes the new system will benefit the state. "My best guess is that it would probably increase the state's take," Oliver said. "There are people who may bet that couldn't get to the track that day."