by Max Brantley
The Family Council is in a swivet. According to Council news bulletin, the gambling parlors at Oaklawn and Southland (those rooms with video poker, blackjack, etc.) are adding the Las Vegas-style amenity of free drinks. I'll let the Family Council take it away:
File Under: Above the Law
From: John Thomas, Vice-President
In yet another blatant and audacious move to solidify their positions as illegal casinos, Arkansas gambling operations Oaklawn Racetrack (Hot Springs) and Southland Racetrack (West Memphis) have received the blessing of the woefully misnamed Alcoholic Beverage Control board (they control it about like wildfire) to now dispense alcoholic drinks for free, according to a reporter who called us for an interview this afternoon about the decision. (According to ABC Rules and Regulations, no such freedom exists for other venues, except microbrewies and at wine tasting events).
Yep, just like in Vegas, the illegal casinos in Hot Springs and West Memphis now have roaming cocktail waitresses with serving trays full of free alcohol available to patrons of those infamous “games of skill,” a.k.a., video poker, a.k.a., the most popular electronic gambling machine at casinos nationwide. With “Sizzling Slots” machines and “Jacks or Better” games, the only thing missing from these casinos is an Elvis impersonator (I probably just gave them their next big idea).
It’s a shame that the ABC board has approved an action that will undoubtedly create more problems for those two cities. If DUI’s are a problem when people have to pay for their drinks, imagine the problem if those drinks are free! There is only one goal in giving people free alcohol while they’re gambling: to more quickly and successfully separate them from their hard-earned money. So while Oaklawn and Southland continue to hypnotize us with their “we’re a good neighbor” mantra, their actions say something completely different.
On Nov. 6, 1959, by a statewide vote of 219,835 to 161,630, Arkansans voted to amend the state constitution to allow “Horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering” in Hot Springs. (Still not quite sure how West Memphis’ Southland Greyhound track managed to wiggle its way in). But Arkansas voters have vehemently opposed casinos. But, as we’ve noted for some time, Oaklawn and Southland are above the law. Gambling is illegal for everyone—except Oaklawn and Southland. Casino games are illegal for everyone—but Oaklawn and Southland. Free alcoholic drinks are illegal for everyone—except Oaklawn and Southland.
The Arkansas Legislature, the Arkansas Racing Commission and now the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control board have giant hats marked “Oaklawn” and “Southland” from which they continue to pull out all kinds of free passes to get around the laws that the rest of us must obey. How long will we put up with this nonsense? How long will law enforcement and the prosecuting attorneys in Garland and Crittenden counties look the other way? How long will Arkansas voters keep electing legislators who won’t oppose such egregious favoritism?
If this irritates you as much as it does me, e-mail me back and let me know about it. We currently have a lawsuit pending before the Arkansas Supreme Court that, if we win, will shut down the casinos at these racetracks. As you might imagine, our little organization taking on the well-funded and politically-connected Arkansas gambling industry is a David and Goliath battle, but what we lack in size we make up for in a strong desire to do the right thing and see justice done. (You do remember who won that little skirmish, right?) If you share that desire and want to help, let us know by replying to this e-mail.