In 2005 the Arkansas Legislature passed Act 1151 authorizing West Memphis and Hot Springs to call special elections regarding “electronic games of skill” at their horse and greyhound tracks.
We said in 2005 that this legislation could make Oaklawn and Southland into de facto casinos. At the time we were assured casino-style gambling would not happen there—that each game would be electronic and involve some degree of skill on the part of the player. Within months of Act 1151’s passage, however, both tracks had casino-style games.
Oaklawn eventually rolled out electronic blackjack; gamblers could place their bets using real poker chips, but the game was played on a computer monitor. This week, however, we learned Oaklawn and Southland have reversed that game. Now blackjack is played with real cards, but the poker chips are electronic.
One has to ask how in the world a card game played with live cards can qualify as an “electronic game of skill.” The trick is each card is scanned by an “electronic eye” (i.e. a video camera) as it is dealt.
Of course this means all bets are off on the other games Oaklawn and Southland can offer. They could probably let people roll live dice, and use a camera to “read” whether the player’s roll wins or loses. They could probably do something similar with a roulette wheel. All they have to demonstrate is that the game involves electronics and some degree of skill on the part of the player—and if blackjack qualifies, these other games, arguably, do as well.
The bottom line: Oaklawn and Southland have done exactly what many suspected they would. They have used the “electronic games of skill” legislation from 2005 to slowly turn their racetracks into casinos.