I’m against casino gambling, as I pontificated over a decade ago (LEO, “Casinos: Unlucky for Kentucky”). Habitual gamblers throw good money after bad, quarters that could have been better spent on bread, milk, gas and laundry — sucked into that smiling One Arm Bandit’s gaping Black Hole of Greed.
Casino gambling is a tax on the poor, an excise on misery.
Now the legislature, in all its wisdom, will vote the matter on the ballot, it appears, for a referendum by the people this fall.
If the referendum passes, those who are two paychecks away from bankruptcy will traverse to casinos and ask for buckets of quarters that could be better spent if pitched in alleys for sustenance of the homeless.
When the casino issue raised its ugly head in 1999, this is what legendary columnist Richard Des Ruisseaux had to say: “The bad news about (casinos) is that you can’t disguise what’s going on. You can dress up a race horse and present it as the Kentucky Derby, but there’s nothing you can do to slot machines … to gloss over the fact that they’re devices used to separate fools and as much of their money as possible in the least amount of time. (I)t’s naked greed that’s on display … (T)his is a sin.”
Any tax revenue enjoyed by the commonwealth in this “Deal with the Devil” must be offset against the social costs. Catch this. Robert Goodman, executive director of the Gambling Research Institute, “insists that most states’ economic-impact statements understate the costs of dealing with pathological gamblers. The public and private pay for increased bankruptcies, unpaid debts, check fraud, embezzlement and other theft. Prosecuting and jailing gamblers who commit crimes to cover their debts is costly … (E)ach problem casino gambler adds approximately $10,113 in yearly costs to a state’s economy.”
Problem gamblers make up 1 percent of the general population; that’s about 40,000 Kentuckians. Mark my words: This number will grow exponentially if casinos ring this dark and bloody ground.
Whether Kentucky would receive a net benefit is questionable, at best. Many studies document that societal problems outrace economic gain when casino gambling hits a community. Last year, Kent Ostrander, executive director of the Family Foundation of Kentucky, pointed out that “Kentucky citizens would have to lose more that $1.4 billion a year for state coffers to gain proponents’ projection of $500,000 million annually.
The perennial argument that “we’re losing money to Indiana” is a red herring. No doubt Indiana would lose money to Kentucky if we set up dog-fighting matches right off the bridge, adjacent to crack houses.
Ultimately, it is not the revenue question as much as the ethical use of government to raise taxes in this back-door way, this insidious trap, this magnet for organized crime.
I encourage you to read “Bad Bet on the Bayou” by Tyler Bridges.
Gambling can be very addictive, right up there with cigarettes and alcohol. And this is no small problem. Consider this: According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, “Two out of three pathological gamblers commit illegal acts in order to pay gambling-related debts. When lower-income gamblers squander money, they can’t afford to lose in a desperate attempt to strike it rich, their families often are the deprived of adequate food, clothing and other basic needs.”
Shall we put a human face on this?
According to The Courier-Journal of Aug. 31, 2007: “Jenny Kephart’s fondness for the blackjack table took her to a world of private jet rides, her own table and dealer in casinos, and lavish hotel suites where iced champagne awaited her arrival … She says she has lost $900,000 at casinos across the country.”
Caesars Indiana now sues her for failing to repay $125,000 it loaned her. In her counterclaim, Jenny Kephart argues that although the casino knew or should have known of her gambling addiction, they nevertheless continued to entice her with luxury hotel suites and giddy rides in private jets.
Over time, the House always wins, collecting the money of the Get-Rich-Quick mentality.
Casinos ruin lives.
But anyway, I’m Carl Brown, Louisville’s Plain Brown Rapper, and that’s just my own damn opinion. If you don’t like it, sue me. Just vote against casinos if they rear their haggard, horrific head in your voting booth this fall.
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