Several wealth billionaires are behind efforts to get the federal government to legalize Internet gambling, Forbes magazine reports.
Former Mirage Resorts executive Richard Bronson has rounded up several deep-pocketed investors that include billionaire real estate mogul Steven Roth, chairman of Vornado Realty Trust, and shopping mall magnate Herbert Simon, the owner of the Indiana Pacers.
“They are all in it for the long haul,” says Bronson, who also signed up Robert and William Taubman, sons of billionaire Alfred Taubman. “Not one of them thinks this will be a sprint, they think it will be a marathon.”
Donald Trump has also teamed up with a hedge fund to form a company that will be ready to use the Trump name is Internet gambling is legalized. Such a move would allow people to gamble from their home or cell phone, essentially putting a casino at everyone’s fingertips. The ease of access will surely result in an increase in problem gamblers, and especially tap into younger gamblers all looking for a quick payday. What gamblers forget is .
New York’s first casino just opened in Queens (see post below), but the gambling influencers are just getting warmed up. Racetrack and casino interests have ramped up lobbying efforts to legalize full-blown casinos across the state. Such a move would require a change in the state constitution, which seems like a sppedbump to the gambling industry.
More than $2.5 million has been spent on lobbying so far, according to the New York Post. That may sound like a lot, but it’s chump change compared to the more than $1.5 million a day that the new slots parlor in Queens expects to generate. So look for millions more to be sloshing around the halls of government in Albany as the gambling interests try to win friends and influence powerful people.
That great tourist destination of beautiful Ozone Park in Queens is home to New York’s first casino. It’s just a short ride on the subway train from Manhattan. Nevermind that New York’s constitution prohibits casinos, gamblers lined up to check out the new slots parlor next to a racetrack. The slots are allowed under a loophole in New York’s gambling laws.
The expansion comes as New York lawmakers are mulling a change in the constitution that would allow full-blown commercial casinos across the state. Like other states, New York lawmakers are sold on the idea of using gambling to generate more tax revenue ($1.5 million a day) and jobs.
Lawmakers, however, continue to ignore the social and economic costs of gambling. Studies show an increase in crime, bankruptcy, suicide and divorce where casinos locate. Other area businesses suffer as well as casino money gets diverted away from restaurants and other entertainment.
More broadly, the idea of lawmakers pushing a policy built on the false hope of getting rich quick goes against the role of government to protect its citizenry. Just consider these comments of a gambler at the Queens casino: “I have a lot of bills to pay so I’m here to win some money, hit it big!” said Sherry Winston of Rockaway.
When folks are trying to pay bills by gambling, society is in trouble.
The forces of good and evil are lined up in Florida over a fight for more gambling. The debate over legalizing commercial casinos in Florida pitches Disney and the Chamber of Commerce on one side against the casino industry’s major players, including Genting Corp. and Steve Wynn. The New York Times details the fight in a front-page story here.
Disney and the Chamber want to preserve Florida’s image as a family-friendly place for tourists. The have an unlikely ally in the Indian reservations that want to preserve their monopoly on gambling in the state. Genting and other influential casino players are promising to build mega resort casinos that will generate jobs and new tax revenue for the state, regardless of the increased social and economic costs that come with casinos.
Preying on residents and tourists with an industry that brings more crime, bankruptcy, divorce and suicide is not a smart econimic policy. Like other states, support for gambling is growing because lawmakers are desperate for any way to generate more tax revenue and jobs. But the head of the Florida Chamber of Commerce said legalizing casinos would not even be an issue in a better economy: “The only reason they are even targeting Florida is that they are hopeful that desperate people will reach for desperate measures,” said Mark A. Wilson, the chamber president. “There is never a good time to push a bad idea.”
Florida lawmakers introduced a sweeping bill that would allow three commercial casinos in the Miami area.
Just try and follow the logic from one of the co-sponsors of the measure: “This is not about bringing casinos to Florida, because they are already here,” said Sen. Ellyn Bodganoff, R-Fort Lauderdale. “The vast majority of gaming we have preys on the lowest common denominator … It only takes dollars and removes them from local restaurants and local retailers. If we are going to be the fourth largest gaming state in the nation, it needs to be the kind of gaming that brings in tourists.”
Translation: We already have lots of gambling in Florida. But the gambling we have preys mainly our poorest and most vulnerable residents. Those gambling outlets don’t add anything to the economy, and in fact divert money from restaurants and retailers. But if we allow big mega casinos, then we can also fleece all the tourists that come to Florida.
Wow, very convincing. By the way, do you have any Florida swampland for sale?
The lottery commission in Georgia commissioned a study that found the state could generate $1 billion by legalizing three casinos. So far, the governor and state lawmakers are mum as to whether they support adding casinos in the Peach state.
The study is the classic first step down the gambling path. The state floats the trial balloon with the lottery study that no one asked for. Big surprise, the study comes back with promises of big bucks. Of course, the study doesn’t factor in the costs of gambling both social and economic. By dangling the $1 billion figure in front of lawmakers, the casino push is now on.
The casino lobbyists move in to the state capital and help draft a bill. Voters may or may not have any input in the major policy decision.
Before you know it, the slot machines will be up and running. And Georgia will join other states in the fleecing of their own citizens with a regressive gambling tax that leads to increases in crime, bankruptcy, suicide and divorce among other social ills. All in the name of generating a few bucks for state coffers.
UPDATE: Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jay Bookman makes a strong case against casinos in Georgia. Bookman rightly points out how little casinos have done to help cities like Reno and Atlantic City. He should know since he lived in Las Vegas and got to see up close the various downsides that come with gambling.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn laid out some key provisions he wants in any bill that would legalize commercial casinos. In a rush to get casinos legalized, state lawmakers dropped the provisions into a bill and introduced it.
But Quinn’s spokesman called the bill a “charade.” To his credit, Quinn is at least trying to strengthen any measure that would legalize gambling. But all the protections in the world won’t prevent the social ills that follow casinos.
More troubling, the slipshod approach to such a major policy shift shows how many state lawmakers are not interested in studying the issue or protecting the public. The name of the game is to ram the casino bill through and start collecting the tax revenue as soon as possible. It’s as if the lawmakers and lobbyists are drafting the bill on the back of a cocktail napkin.
The slot machines haven’t even been plugged in yet in Massachusetts, and already the hint of insider dealin ghas begun. The Boston Globe reported that a top official in Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration bought stock in two casino companies in advance of state lawmakers taking up bills to legalize gambling in the state.
Housing and Economic Development Secretary Gregory Bialecki bought stock in Las Vegas Sands Corp.and Wynn Resorts Ltd., both of which are eyeing casinos in the state and have spent money lobbying lawmakers. Bialecki has since sold the $17,100 in stock, turning a profit of almost $6,000.
The former Massachusetts Attorney General blasted the “cozy” relationship between the casino industry and state lawmakers. Former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, president of Citizens for a Stronger Massachusetts, said “the cozy relationship between our elected and appointed officials, casino bosses, and their hired guns is deeply troubling,” and today’s ”Boston Globe expose just peels back another layer of this rotten onion.”
Fear not Massachusetts: Similar cozy ties and smelly deals have occurred in other states that have legalized gambling. If anything, it is practically standard operating procedure when state lawmakers get in bed with casino operators. It is just another reason why government should get out of the gambling rackets.
Tiny Delaware has three casinos that operators say are struggling to turn a profit. The casino owners blame the economy, increased competition from neighboring Maryland and Pennsylvania and the high fees paid to the state.
So casino industry representatives are meeting with state gambling officials to see what can be done to help the casinos. The casino operators want the state to reduce the fees paid to the state. This is a classic cautionary tale for other states getting into the gambling rackets.
For one, it shows how gambling is an unsustainable economic growth engine. After all, there is only so much money gamblers can pump into casinos. It also shows the classic arc that the casino industry follows. After entering a state and enjoying a burst of new money, revenues eventually level off.
The industry will then push to add more gambling options, from table games to sports betting. After that tops out, the industry begins to lobby state lawmakers to lower taxes and fees paid to the state. The state then sees its take decrease, thus undermining the reason lawmakers legalized gambling in the first place.
The result is two losers: the gamblers and state coffers. As always, the only winners are the casinos, proving once again that there is a sucker born every minute and you can’t beat the house.
A poll shows about half the residents in Rochester support a casino in the downtown. That’s up from about 34 percent who favored a casino in downtown Rochester just a few years ago. The poll shows a growing comfort with the idea of gambling and casinos in the upstate New York community not known for neon flash and glitz.
The response from those polled also show how uninformed many residents are when it comes to gambling. Credit the gambling industry which has done a good job of selling lawmakers and the public on the bill goods known as casinos.
“It can only help downtown Rochester,” said Joanne Fusco, 67, a retired nurse. Really? How so? Obviously, Fusco hasn’t seen downtown Atlantic City. At least Joyce Trumble, 78, a retired Kodak employee, understands that gambling adds little to no value to a community. ”Too many people go out and spend money that don’t have the money (to spend),” she said. “They are trying to get something for nothing.”