Gambling Leads to Political Corruption

As West Warwick Rep. Tim Williamson continues to flog the twice-shot casino horse here in Rhode Island, an editorial by Thomas Grey–national field director of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling–in today’s ProJo points out that the recent Abramoff scandal occurred because of influence peddling done by Indian casinos. Thus, the unsurprising conclusion is that–in addition to financial and social costs–gambling leads to political corruption.

Both political parties have been equal-opportunity pigs at the feeding trough of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Behind the recent confessions of mail fraud, tax evasion, and influence peddling is the enormous impact of gambling dollars on politics. Gambling lobbyists are involved in misused charities, campaign contributions, overseas golfing excursions, and stipends to the wives of lawmakers. Trace the money to its source and you find enormous gambling profits.
The majority of senators are returning tainted gambling contributions, including Conrad Burns (R.-Mont.), Byron Dorgan (D.-N.D.), Mitch McConnell (R.-Kty.), Harry Reid (D.-Nev.), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D.-N.Y.), Sam Brownback (R.-Kans.), and Max Baucus, (D.-Mont.) Prominent House members on the list of recipients include former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R.-Texas), Nita Lowey (D.-N.Y.), House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.), Earl Pomeroy (D.-N.D.), Bob Ney (R.-Ohio), and Patrick Kennedy (D.-R.I.).
Elected officials of both parties are now giving back millions of gambling dollars with the same ease with which they accepted them.
Current headlines eclipse the savings-and-loan scandals of a generation ago. Congress tried to bail out the financial losses of savings-and-loan associations, but who pays for the victims of our national gambling binge, the losses resulting from increased addictions, bankruptcies, theft, embezzlements, suicides, marital problems, and broken homes?
Certainly not the gambling promoters and their hirelings.

It’s a link I wish I’d made myself within the context of the latest stab at a RI casino. I’ve said before that it is the RI government that is most addicted to gambling because of the revenue generated, but Grey sums it up nicely:

The tragedy of gambling is the lure of great wealth, painlessly acquired through luck. When individuals become addicted to this dream of easy money, their greed often leads to fraud, bankruptcy, and personal tragedy.
This same pattern is emerging in modern government. Here, too, gamblers offer easy wealth: a painless revenue stream to cover government deficits. With the lubrication of political contributions, lawmakers view gambling as the solution to financing government obligations. Thus, Government slowly becomes addicted to more and more gambling schemes.
The results are tragically predictable: financial shortfalls, personal tragedies, and the political corruption that we are now experiencing. No state can gamble itself rich.
Last year, Nevada passed the largest tax increase in its history. Like other gambling-addicted states, Nevada had to get out of the hole that gambling had dug for it. The time has come for politicians to sever their ties with gambling predators.

Is this the sort of financial “security” we are seeking? I support the idea that RIers should have the right to vote on whether or not they want a casino. But I’ll also continue to argue against the false promise of painless revenue that the casino-pushers proffer. Such a scheme just doesn’t square with my old-fashioned Yankee sensibility.

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18 years ago

very good read. If I had the chance to shoot the casino horse myself, i would take it.

18 years ago

Gambling is just a hidden regressive tax on poor citizens. Yet the government’s percentage take is much lower, with most of the profits going to out-of-state companies. After living in New Orleans while gambling was legalized there, it became apparent to me that most of the play was by locals despite the huge flocks of tourists everywhere. Given that RI isn’t nearly the tourist draw NO is (or was), it follows that locals will be doing virtually all the playing here.
If government has budget issues, the right thing to do is cut spending. Even raising taxes is better than initiating gambling – and far more honest to boot.

18 years ago

This entire charade of gambling and its illusion of net income is nothing more than a cynical ploy by the Democrats in this state.
I have no doubts that the Democrats running the RI legislature know precisely what they are doing. It is what I call their “3D” vision for Rhode Island – they want to keep people “Dumb, Dependant and Democrat.” This allows them to campaign against those evil corporations, the rich, etc., allows them to keep raising taxes and spending, thereby masquerading as the protectors, all the while, keeping the little guy down, yet maintaining them as a reliable voting bloc.
Very cynical, and, so far, very effective, as evidenced by the ignorant electorate that keeps these clowns in power.

john b
john b
18 years ago

so giving more money to the GA is supposed to be a good thing?
ever see what happens when you over-feed a goldfish?

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