Favorite

A jackpot for the house 


Nov. 8, voters in Hot Springs and West Memphis will decide whether to allow race tracks in those cities to add “electronic games of skill.” It’s certain they’ll support the tracks.

This vote is a result of a bill rushed through the opening days of the legislature. Before schools and everything else, increased profits had to be insured for race track owners.

How, you ask, can race tracks offer video poker in a state where gambling is prohibited by Constitution and law? Answer: it’s erroneously deemed a “game of skill.”

Real poker requires skill. But these machines will be set to pay back a fixed percentage of amounts wagered. State law says the payoff must be at least 83 percent. That’s incredibly stingy, against Vegas and Mississippi casinos, where the unskilled slots return 95 percent and more of the amount you put in. But those casinos have competition.

Will Arkansas tracks milk bettors for the maximum allowable? Probably. The tracks already have “Instant Racing,” another bogus game of skill in which you bet on previously run horse races. The machines pay back only 83 percent of bets, but fans have stormed them. The rest of the take goes to taxes and the house, with the tracks getting about 58 percent of the net.

Here’s why the new form of gambling will be a bonanza for the tracks.

Video poker is alluring — addictive even — to gamblers. (I know, the tracks say they haven’t decided what form of gambling the new machines will offer. Don’t believe them.) The suckers still BELIEVE skill can make a difference. It doesn’t. The house wins 17 cents of every dollar.

There are many reasons for voters to be unhappy. 1) The special handling at the legislature. 2) The hurry-up elections, after statements from the tracks that no elections would be held until spring. 3) The ability of Hot Springs and West Memphis voters to approve casino gambling in Arkansas, but only for two monopoly operators. If we must have gambling, why not shoot for the Mississippi miracle, with lots of competition?

Finally, 4) the biggest loser is the gambler. It begins with the abysmally low 83 percent payback. It continues with the profits written into law for the tracks.

Oaklawn and Southland will get to keep 65 percent of the net on the new machines, even more than they get on Instant Racing. That cut for the house, according to statistics compiled by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is more than the house receives in seven of the eight states where race tracks have added machine gambling. Only Louisiana — famous for corruption in state regulation of casinos — is clearly higher, and then only marginally. Iowa’s rate is similar to Arkansas’s law on house take, but the payouts there average a generous 93 percent, a figure we’re unlikely to see here.

If the Southland dog track gets machines, it might have “loose” machines, given the proximity of gambling competitors in Mississippi. At Oaklawn, where the suckers poured $74 million into Instant Racing in 2004 in return for an 83 percent payout, why would the operators want to mess with a good thing?

Somebody’s got to win, right?




Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Supremely discredited

    Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood and her allies continue to discredit the state's highest court.
    • Jul 30, 2015
  • Hutchinson pulls Faubus move

    I don't know what if anything might arise or be planned in the future relative to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's order to end Medicaid reimbursement for medical services (not abortion) provided by Planned Parenthood in Arkansas.
    • Aug 20, 2015
  • Neighborliness, in Little Rock and beyond

    I had a parochial topic in mind this week — a surprise plan by Mayor Mark Stodola to address the Arkansas Arts Center's many needs.
    • Nov 19, 2015

Most Shared

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Pork and more

    Some notes on disparate topics before I take a vacation break.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • Praising Asa

    Let us now praise the governor for a starkly moderate record, at least in comparison with other red-state executives.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • More on LRSD tax

    When the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and a Walton Foundation-paid lobbyist, long devoted critics of the Little Rock School District, lead the messaging for a quarter-billion dollars in new tax debt for the district, it is cause for caution.
    • Jan 5, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Event Calendar

« »

January

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • A heart in this house

    Since Election Day, I have been at a loss as to how to direct my energy. I am spinning in circles.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?
  • Pork and more

    Some notes on disparate topics before I take a vacation break.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: A week of 'thunderbolts'

    • So poignant. Often, leaders come and go, only to fade into the chapters of history…

    • on January 18, 2017
  • Re: Hillbillies

    • Investigator, you're like an old record that skips and keeps repeating over and over and…

    • on January 18, 2017
  • Re: Hillbillies

    • Oh Pshaw. I never criticized her "affectionate feelings" for her children - in fact I…

    • on January 18, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation