I have a personal approach to understanding people which works almost every time. When you find turmoil in a group of people, just follow the smell of money or the promise of money to it's source, and you will figure out what's going on. For example...
In Alabama, we're talking about gambling via electronic bingo. The machines are in violation of current law, so the governor has shut them down. Now, the casino owners are on the warpath with some serious money on the line.
The assertion being pressed upon state legislators, shouted on the steps of the capital, and presented to all of us in very attractive TV ads by popular country music artists is to "Let the people vote" (to change the law). Sounds like a noble proposition, huh?
But, please understand that the noble position is being manipulated for the direct benefit of investors in gambling interests...not for the benefit of communities who desperately need economic development. This is about a few gambling investors making a boat-load of money.
Can societal economic development occur through gambling? Yes, but it is a front-loaded benefit. And, that benefit is much sought after by caring leaders desperate for anything to help their ailing communities quickly.
Gaming does work in the short term because there is always a ready population of patrons motivated by greed...the notion of getting something for nothing. Remember the smell of money. Ultimately, that is an unsustainable economic model for two reasons.
First, the gaming event is heavily weighted to the benefit of the house...as high as 95%. So, the gaming patron will, over time, always loose more money than he/she bets. The only consistent winner is the investor/owner of the gaming event. One wonders at the responsibility of community leaders advocating such a thing for their people.
Second, the local gaming population will eventually bleed out of money. That leads to a back-loaded social welfare cost which must be shouldered by the local community...seldom considered and often dismissed by community leaders. The deal has two sides, and one of them bites.
A sustainable gaming economy requires every-widening circles of gaming patrons, each successive circle replacing the bled-out one before it. Thus, the investment in large gaming centers with entertainment attractions and enormous advertising expenditures.
However, a sustainable community economy is not largely benefitted from gaming. Apart from a few lower paying jobs provided by the gaming center or business related to it (restaurants, hotels, gas stations, etc.), the core local economy remains untouched...unless the gaming is heavily taxed and regulated.
Be aware...the measure designed by gambling interests currently being promoted in the legislature does not benefit sustainable community economic development. The only winner is the gaming center owner. Those owners know it, and they are spending a great deal of money to convince you that their cause is right.
But, to the question of the vote...should not the people be allowed to vote on changing laws in their land? Is not this a basic principle of our way of life? Yes, if that is the will of the majority of the people. Too many have died for that freedom for it to be lost over any measure. But, with that freedom comes responsibility to exercise wisdom and discernment about the specifics of the measure on which we vote.
State Sen. Ben Brooks said it right. Quoting from a Mobile Press Register, Feb. 27, article...
"I support, as a matter of principle, the right of people to vote on a clean bill. But SB 380 (the measure being considered by the legislature to bring electronic bingo legalization to a vote by the people) is a bill crafted by and and for a handful of special-interest gambling kingpins."
The article continues, "Brooks said that for him to back a constitutional amendment on gambling, it would have to have several elements missing from SB 380 such as:
- A clause to make all gambling illegal if voters shoot down the legalization effort.
- A requirement that would-be operators competitively bid for the right to have casinos.
- A higher tax rate for gambling proceeds.
- Restrictions on political contributions from gambling interests.
Should such a bill come up for a Senate vote, Brooks said he would approve it being put to a statewide vote and would then (personally) vote to make gambling illegal."
I am not convinced that it is the will of a majority of the people in Alabama to change this law, and I intend to let my representatives and senators know that. However, I think that a majority of our legislators have already decided that a state-wide vote is the best position to take. So, a vote will come. As a voter, I want something worthy of consideration for the greater good of the state not the greater good of a few gaming investors.
Therefore, join me in pressing our legislators to engage Ben Brooks in the design of an alternative bill with teeth to ensure the common good. Send this article to them. Then, when it comes to a vote, the options become either "no" to gaming or, if passed, assurance that gaming will pay the freight for the pain.
Or...stay quiet and help the gambling investors load their boat.