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Smart Talk

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The loosest slots

Both Southland Park in West Memphis and Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs rolled out the new “electronic games of skill” for about 20 days in November and from all indications, the machines are going to be big winners for the tracks.

No skill is actually involved. The machines are set to pay off at predetermined rates on poker, blackjack and a “lock-and-roll” game that sounds suspiciously similar to a slot machine.

It appears that Southland cleared about $876,000 in 20 days and Oaklawn, with fewer machines, about $360,000. The state pulled in about $324,000 in taxes. An amount nearly equivalent to the state’s take went to horse and dog race purses and breeding programs and local taxes.

So, you ask, how much did the bettors win?

Nothing. They lost money. How else would the house profit and the state capture taxes? Patrons wagered $6.735 million at Southland in 20 days and $5.993 million at Oaklawn. They got total payouts of $5.387 million at Southland and $5.54 million at Oaklawn for net losses of $1.348 million at Southland and $452,000 at Oaklawn.

That puts the payout on Southland machines for the first 20 days at 80 percent and at Oaklawn, much farther removed from the competition of Mississippi casinos, at a far looser payoff of 92 percent. State law requires that machines pay back 83 percent of wagers, but that’s an average over the roughly 10-year life of each machine so the 20-day report doesn’t put Southland in violation of the law.

Do as I say …

We mined Gov. Mike Huckabee’s new “book,” last week, but couldn’t resist some more nuggets.

For example, his take on the travails of public life, in the book “From Hope to Higher Ground”:

“People you thought were your friends will abandon you and people you knew were your enemies will prove it! While some people will accuse you of breaking your promises to them, other people will break their promises to you.”

“People will often tell me that they are behind me, but what that means is that they are way behind me and nowhere near when the bullets are flying. While occasionally a corrupt politician like Randy Duke Cunningham of San Diego will sell his office for personal wealth, more often than not people in public service will sacrifice their level of income compared to what they could have made had they used the same talents in the private sector.”

“During my tenure I had the distinction of being the lowest paid governor in America ....”

This passage came toward the end of the book. He apparently forgot something he said earlier:

“I learned early in life that complaining, whining or blaming others for my problems not only failed to garner much sympathy from those around me, but did nothing to improve my situation.”

Slow your roll

The Arkansas Municipal League recently asked legislators to amend the state speed trap law to make it easier for small-town police departments to issue traffic citations.

The current law only allows speeding tickets to account for 30 percent of a city’s general revenue. The Municipal League wants that limit raised to 50 percent.

Meanwhile, the speeders themselves are fighting back on a national website called the SpeedTrap Exchange (, where anyone can document the locations of known speed traps. The Arkansas page includes over 100 communities, from Alexander to Yellville, with specific instructions on where to hit the brakes.

Some places, it seems, should be avoided altogether. The posting for Menifee simply says, “Most everyone that travels on Highway 64 through Menifee will get a ticket at some point.”

As for Tuckerman: “There are two officers there that would get their mother for speeding.”

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