Just in time for a new Arkansas legislature to be invited in for drinks and a few spins of the slots (and you can bet they'll be there, knocking back the freebies), the old Southland Greyhound Park will have a grand re-opening Thursday as Southland Gaming and Racing.
They've pumped $40 million into the old 'hound track in West Memphis to make it a racino, where the dogs will be secondary to 750 "electronic games of skill" -- otherwise known as video poker and blackjack and even other machines, based on descriptions at the Racing Commission, that sound mighty similar to an old-fashioned slot machine. Unless somebody files a successful lawsuit, none dare call it gambling. It is a game of skill.
Southland is well-positioned to draw Memphis customers from the more distant Mississippi casinos and hopes to do so with the Juke Joint, a night club and sports bar; a big buffet restaurant; an events center and, oh yes, that room full of slots.
For old times sake, they ought to invite former Rep. Ben McGee in to see the facility. Before his time in federal prison, he was one of the original promoters of the notion that you could legally add video poker to Southland without running afoul of the constitutional prohibition on games of chance. Southland danced perilously close to the flame that singed ol' Ben (it employed his wife while he was a legislator, for example) but that's all in the past. I personally wonder if they've found a way to graft a Wheel of Fortune feature onto these games of skill, my personal favorite brand of gambling poison. Get you a sack of quarters and head on down the freeway to West Memphis, dogtown no more.