The ProJo’s Naive and Logically Suspect Casino Endorsement
The ProJo’s endorsement of a casino displays a willingness to believe everything good about the proposal and nothing bad. That alone makes it perhaps one of the most sophomoric endorsement I’ve ever read. Yet, even the naivete could be dismissed if the Journal’s editorial board had seen fit to mention at least once in their endorsement that approving Question 1 meant amending the RI Constitution. They didn’t. In their endorsement, the ProJo ignores one of the central points of contention in the entire casino debate: that approval of Question 1 hinges on changing the State Constitution. Thus, the endorsement becomes more than a display of naivete and can only be characterized as an irresponsible and disingenuous attempt to obfuscate.
In addition to the ProJo’s silence on the fact that approving a casino hinges on changing the RI Consitution, their endorsement has at least 2 examples of naivete (or amnesia) and one huge display of bad logic. Together, I think these undercut the ProJo’s argument for approving a casino.
Naive Example 1:
[A casino] would also provide substantial property-tax relief: Some of the revenue from the project would be dedicated to such relief, much needed in a state with among the country’s highest such levies.
The conclusions are correct, but the problem is in the premise: how much revenue is going to be dedicated to tax relief? The ProJo asks that we just believe that the General Assembly will follow through. And when confronted with funding higher pensions and pet projects, they’ll still follow through, right? Of course, the ProJo also isn’t troubled by the vagueness of the amendment where it states that “a portion” will be devoted to property tax relief. What if $1 were put towards it? Wouldn’t that still be Constitutionally legal?
Naive Example 2:
And the casino would increase state income- and sales-tax revenue, thus reducing pressure for rises in those taxes for Rhode Islanders. That, in turn, could make it easier to draw other business to the Ocean State.
Same problem as above. Ever hear of slippage?
Logical Fallacy 1:
Many people assert that Rhode Island must not have “a casino.” Too late! The proposed project would be the third casino in the state. The casinos in Lincoln and Newport are big and well established, although, it is true, they function mostly as slot-machine palaces, without the (far-more-social) card and other gambling games that the West Warwick project would have.
As for gambling itself, Rhode Island and most other states have been deep into state-sponsored betting for years — starting with the state lotteries established in the 1970s. To complain about yet another gambling venue seems a bit disingenuous at this point.
Hm. I never realized that card games were morally superior to slot machines because they were more “social.” But back to the point. Here, the ProJo tries to justify changing the RI Consitution to allow for the building of a casino and expanding gambling through a rhetorical trick and an exercise in circular logic.
First, to equate the “gaming parlors” at Lincoln Park and Newport Grand to a casino is specious. I’ll grant that the long term goal of the owners of each is to expand gambling at both sites, but that isn’t what the ProJo is arguing. Right now, these two establishments aren’t casino’s and it’s an improper comparison. Not all gambling is the same.
Second, and at the heart of the ProJo argument, is the use of the time tested “hypocrisy” argument in conjunction with the rhetorical strawman. The big question I have is this: How can I (and others) be “disingenuous” if we’ve never agreed with state sponsored casino gambling to begin with? Rhode Island voters have voted down casinos multiple times. The ProJo assumes that because–despite the efforts of anti-gambling people–we have state-supported gambling now, we must, ipso facto, support it’s expansion. If not, why, it’d be hypocritical! (Is there anything worse than being a hypocrite?). People who support the lottery or slot parlors don’t have to support a big casino. To them, a big casino is a step too far. In fact, it could be argued that this is the “moderate” approach to gambling. And doesn’t the ProJo usually revel in being “moderate”?
But, according to the ProJo, gambling is gambling, right?
Aw heck, I give up. The ProJo has convinced me.
So I propose that we push for legalizing sports gambling in Rhode Island. Sports betting is popular (football pools, March Madness, etc.), very “social” and the state could generate a lot of revenue by taking a piece of the action via state-run sports books. Heck, every restaurant and bar could have one in the back room. This would make them more popular and increase traffic in places like Federal Hill!
And isn’t it obvious that such a move would increase jobs?
It could also help make Rhode Island THE destination of sports gamblers worldwide!!!!! Think of the boon to the tourism industry?
And there’s no slippage clause associated with sports betting that I’m aware of!
So, why not, ProJo? Why stop at a mega-casino? Let’s make all gambling legal. Now is not the time for half-measures. All gambling is the same, after all, right? At this time we simply can’t afford to be too moralistic or “too preachy”. We need more cash for our politicians to spend in an honest and forthright manner and gambling is the quickest way. Let’s profit from vice! It’s the only practical solution to the state’s financial problems, after all, and we’re doing it already.
What’s that? No? Now don’t be a hypocrite….
UPDATE: Dan Yorke is reviewing a decades-worth of anti-Casino Editorial pieces by the very same ProJo. Like others, Yorke is asking, “What happened? Why the 180 degree turn?” A sample of past ProJo editorials as read by Yorke (with my quick summary):
“Just Say No to Casino” 1994 – Against the economics of it vs. other options.
“No Casino” November 6, 1994 – About the inherent corruption around casinos.
“Vote No in West Warwick” June 1999 – Money spent by RIers in a casino will go out of state.
“Allow Vote on Casino” – June 6, 2000 – A big casino will raise cost of public services (police, fire), hurt local businesses, hurt the quality of life and send $ out of state. But voters should decide.
“Put Casino to Vote” June 20, 2004 – Harrah’s casino would hurt RI, create a net outflow of $ and potentially fuel corruption. But voters should decide.
You get the point.
Yorke thinks that there may be a Texas connection between Belo corp. (owners of the ProJo) and one of the companies that may be bidding on Harrah’s. Hmm.