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

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • 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
  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016

Most Shared

  • Conspiracy theorists

    Back in 2000, I interviewed Rev. Jerry Falwell on camera in connection with a documentary film of "The Hunting of the President," which Joe Conason and I wrote.
  • The health of a hospital

    The Medicaid expansion helped Baxter County Regional Medical Center survive and thrive, but a federal repeal bill threatens to imperil it and its patients.
  • Virgil, quick come see

    There goes the Robert E. Lee. But the sentiment that built the monument? It's far from gone.
  • Real reform

    Arkansas voters, once perversely skeptical of complicated ballot issues like constitutional amendments, have become almost comical Pollyannas, ratifying the most shocking laws.
  • That modern mercantile: The bARn

    The bARn Mercantile — "the general store for the not so general," its slogan says — will open in the space formerly occupied by Ten Thousand Villages at 301A President Clinton Ave.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Virgil, quick come see

    There goes the Robert E. Lee. But the sentiment that built the monument? It's far from gone.
    • May 25, 2017
  • You want tort reform? Try this.

    The nursing home industry and the chamber of commerce finally defeated the trial lawyers in the 2017 legislature. The Republican-dominated body approved a constitutional amendment for voters in 2018 that they'll depict as close to motherhood in goodness.
    • May 18, 2017
  • French Hill's photo op

    The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed a health care bill that only the blind, dumb or dishonest could call good for any but the wealthy. For its many flaws, it has been hailed as a ticket to congressional gains for the Democratic Party.
    • May 11, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Underutilized waterway is a hidden gem in urban Little Rock

Event Calendar

« »

May

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

  • Virgil, quick come see

    There goes the Robert E. Lee. But the sentiment that built the monument? It's far from gone.
  • Conspiracy theorists

    Back in 2000, I interviewed Rev. Jerry Falwell on camera in connection with a documentary film of "The Hunting of the President," which Joe Conason and I wrote.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Conspiracy theorists

    • As long as people's arguments are off topic, I might as well run off on…

    • on May 26, 2017
  • Re: Conspiracy theorists

    • Silly me, Lyons not Lyon's, not that Lyons would care - he's too busy curtsying…

    • on May 26, 2017
  • Re: Conspiracy theorists

    • And Al - not bad! But I base what I say on what Gene Lyon's…

    • on May 26, 2017
 

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