For all its ill aspects, the proposed constitutional amendment to legalize three casinos in Arkansas controlled by a pair of Missouri investors does NOT, as some critics and commentators are saying, instantly legalize sports betting in Arkansas, though sports betting is explicitly mentioned in the measure along with any other gambling legal in Nevada and several other states with casinos.
Here’s why: Federal law prohibits sports bookmaking, except in Nevada. (Three other states — Oregon, Montana and Delaware – enjoy grandfathered status for some limited lottery games based on NFL games because the schemes existed before the passage of the federal legislation banning sports books.)
A spokesman for the Arkansas amendment said the sports betting was included in the event the federal law ever changes. And he contends, even then, this addition would require state legislative approval.
Speaking of sports betting: I don’t guess anybody in Arkansas is doing it now. All the paid touts on radio are just providing picks of the week for amusement purposes.
Another point some don’t seem to understand: The casino gambling at Oaklawn Park and Southland is not restricted to the euphemistic “electronic games of skill.” At both casinos, real cards and chips are used at the blackjack tables. At Southland, you can also “roll” dice and also at Oaklawn. At both places you may also “spin” a roulette wheel, but it and craps are electronic versions. How these are “games of skill” has never been clear to me.
But for the Arkansas Constitution’s prohibition against lotteries, the better course would be to end the fiction and fully declare Oaklawn and Southland casinos, with all the tactile accompaniments and felt tables. And let the free market decide whether others should get in on the action. (That free marketplace, I should add quickly, is not what the backers of the three new casinos have in mind.)