Clyde Haberman of The New York Times highlights the hypocrisy surrounding the hyped-up raid on a building in Chinatown that was described as a major gambling operation. “But people in the building say the gambling amounted to low-stakes mah-jongg and card games,” he wrote. “And the arrests led to nothing more than misdemeanor charges against a few immigrants middle-aged and beyond, including a 78-year-old woman who hardly came across as her generation’s Ma Barker.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other state lawmakers are busy trying to amend the state’s constitution in order to allow for commercial casinos. Initially, Cuomo was negotiating with a Malaysian firm to give them the gambling rights in New York City – similar to the way mob families carve up territories.
Then, of course, there is the issue that the state is one of the biggest numbers runners in the country. The New York Lottery made $2.9 billion in the fiscal year that ended on March 31. The state said the money went to education, but as Haberman pointed out: ”lottery profits are thrown into the general treasury, rendering them indistinguishable from other sources of state revenue. One could just as truthfully, though less effectively in the public relations department, say that the profit supported welfare payments and recreation programs at Attica.”
Haberman then cut to chase: “Also left unsaid is how the lottery encourages working stiffs and the very poor to part with scarce dollars in pursuit of a hazy dream. It’s fundamentally no different from how people in Chinatown plunk down a few bucks on their mah-jongg tiles. Yet one gambling operation is lauded as noble while the other invites the full weight of the law.”