Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s last hopes of pushing his pro-casino bill through the legislature seem all but lost this week, as Hastings Wyman of the Southern Political Report notes. Holding a press conference on Monday, Beshear made a final, yet seemingly hopeless plea for the passage of his bill.
Wyman reports, “’I don’t see any hope at all for [the governor’s proposal],’ says Kentucky Roll Call editor Lowell Reese, who covers the legislature up close. The governor’s one hope says Reese – and a small one at that – is that when the House and Senate conferees try to iron out differences in their recently passed budget bills, they will come up against the hard truth of not enough revenue.”
Beshear’s promise of up to $500 million in new state revenue apparently isn’t enough incentive for the House to vote to pass his bill. Because Beshear’s bill is a constitutional amendment his almost fifty pledges falls short of the required sixty votes for passage. Wyman relays that “House Speaker Jody Richards says he wants 62 pledges before he’ll bring it to a vote, to provide a safety margin.”
With the state legislature’s adjournment drawing near, Beshear’s casino hopes seem to be all but lost—a dangerous failed promise from his victorious Gubernatorial campaign.
Harvard Law School formed an organization called the Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society (GPSTS). At the time they claimed it was simply an educational tool looking to use the strategic concepts of poker to learn about math, negotiations and other educational worthy material. Today we learn the truth. The CW 47 out of Columbia is reporting that the GPSTS is publicly opposing Gov Patrick’s legislation that would make online poker illegal with up to two years in jail and maximum fine of $25,000:
The group plans to demand that Governor Deval Patrick explain who wrote the provision of the casino bill outlawing poker, which a Harvard Law Professor called “crazy and non-sensical.”
“I don’t think filling our expensive jail cells with poker players is what Massachusetts voters had in mind when they elected Deval Patrick,” said Charles Nesson, the Harvard professor who founded the GPSTS.
Governor Patrick “owes the people of Massachusetts an explanation” as to how the anti-poker provision found its way into the bill, Nesson said. “We intend to keep pushing this until we get answers from the governor,” Nesson added.
It is now completely obvious and clear that the organization is nothing more than a shell for the gambling industry who’s real purpose is to try to hook students early into supporting gambling so they can promote a political agenda. It’s bad enough that Harvard’s educational system would seek to use gambling as a method of education, but to use students to be the gambling industry’s political arm under the guise of education is indefensible.
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The Missouri Gaming Commission and Executive Director Gene McNary have been under a lot of pressure regarding their recent decision to approve a new casino in Sugar Creek. The Kansas City Star explains:
Gaming industry representatives, stock market analysts and some state lawmakers have sharply criticized the commission in recent weeks for considering an additional casino in the Kansas City market at a time Kansas is preparing to build two state-owned gambling facilities in neighboring Wyandotte County.
This week Gov. Matt Blunt put his two cents worth into the debate. Asked whether the governor had a backstage role in the commission’s sudden cooling on Sugar Creek, spokeswoman Nanci Gonder said, “Gov. Blunt has had no specific conversations with the Commission on this topic, but the governor’s opposition to expanding gaming is well known.”
In its latest meeting, the MCG planned on addressing the sole applicant for Sugar Creek but this political pressure has caused a considerable amount of backpedaling on the issue. There are various bills in the legislature attempting to stop a new casino and there have been several different reports about the changing nature of the latest MCG meeting. The most recent report, however, explains that the meeting has been outright cancelled. I could be wrong about the decision to cancel the meeting being a result of Gene McNary’s and the Commission’s incitement of the entire Missouri casino industry, the legislature and the Governor. After all, the spokeswoman for the Gaming Commission did say the meeting was cancelled ‘“due to inclement weather.”’
There have been countless examples of how the casino industry uses their influence to pass legislation. However, the buck doesn’t stop there as we have all heard the stories of politician’s involvement in dirty politics concerning gambling. In a bit of irony, Current Gov. Steve Beshear was one of those doing the exposing when he exposed former Gov. John Brown’s gambling habit back during the Democratic Gubernatorial Primary in 1987. The Courier-Journal reported online:
At one point [Beshear] had a press conference to say he had uncovered proof that Brown’s office had called the Caesar’s Palace casino in Las Vegas more than two dozen times while he was in office from 1979 to 1983.
And he noted that Brown once said he had spent the better part of $1.3 million he withdrew from a Florida bank to cover his losses from one “bad night” in Vegas. “It sets a bad example and it creates a bad image for our state,” he said of Brown’s gambling.
Apparantly Gov. Beshear must have changed his mind regarding the image gambling creates. Not only was it reported that he has been influencing the legislative process to get this bill through in the most underhanded means, there are now allegations of possible criminal activities in an effort to ram through Gov. Beshear’s casino gambling amendment. Senate President David Williams alleges that democratic house leaders are looking to offer political favors, which essentially amount to bribery and extortion, in exchange for votes on the amendment. WHAS Channel 11 and ABC affiliate out of KY reported:
Senate President David Williams says he’s sure democratic house leaders are promising lawmakers projects in their districts or passage of pet pieces of legislation if they’ll vote for a casino bill.
Williams believes house leaders are using the budget process to essentially bribe legislators to vote for casinos. Senator Williams didn’t offer any proof or specifics of projects for casino votes. Representative Moberly says there’s no horse trading for votes on the casino bill, which is still far short of the votes needed for passage.
But the house budget committee chairman admits lawmakers who agree to vote for tax increases or new revenue will be the first to get funding for projects in their districts.
I guess this is the face of politics that we should get used to when gambling issues are involved. I applaud those in KY who are willing to take a stand for what is right and try to oppose these dirty political and possible criminal tricks.
In another example of corruption in government and casino influence, we learn of the actions of New York lawmakers. In an editorial posted online by the NY Daily News, we learn how politicians can be influenced to give the industry all the financial help they need, even at the expense of school children:
State lawmakers promised in 1966, when they created the lottery, that the proceeds would go to education. State lawmakers promised again in 2001, when they authorized the introduction of video slot machines at horse racing tracks, that the proceeds would go to education.
And now they and Gov. Spitzer have broken that promise. They have decided, in a typical back-room deal, that tens of millions of dollars that by rights should be spent on improving schools will instead prop up New York’s declining racing industry.
It’s an outrage. Using state-sponsored gambling to pay for education is distasteful enough. Using state-sponsored gambling to subsidize more gambling is plain wrong.
This is neither the first nor last time the industry used school children as a means to an end. There are far better ways to fund education than expanded gambling and as this example proves, even when you think the money is going to the children, it may not. Don’t buy into the exploitation of school children as a means to expand gambling.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and supporters seem so motivated to expand gambling in KY by allowing casinos that they seem willing to do what ever it takes. His goal is to get a constitutional amendment passed through the legislature to be voted on by the people. The language of the proposed bill has varied but the idea has been the same; use casino gambling as the way to fix budget problems in KY.
The first step in the process is to get a committee to view the legislation and vote whether or not to send it to the house floor for debate by all the representatives. The Associated Press reported that Bushear’s bill came up before the Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs but failed on a 5-3 vote. Gov Bushear released a response telling legislators to, “to get their act together quickly,” and that, “only with their unified support will this amendment stand a chance of passage.”
Such reactions are very typical in the course of politics but what happened next was anything but typical. As the AP explains:
Reacting to Beshear’s call for action, the House Committee on Committees appointed two additional Democratic lawmakers – state Reps. John Will Stacy of West Liberty and Tim Firkins of Louisville – to the committee considering the casino bill.
The Committee on Committees also removed another lawmaker, state Rep. Dottie Sims, D-Horse Cave, from the casino committee. House Speaker Jody Richards recommended the moves.
Newsfirst Channel 27 out of Ky reported that Rep Sims had originally supported the idea of 9 casinos but she changed her vote when the bill did not guarantee that a certain number of those casinos would be at horse tracks. The House Speaker Richards attempted to justify the blatant attempt to corrupt the voting process by saying that Sims was removed because she changed her mind explaining that, “here in Frankfort, your word is your bond.”
The very next day a similar bill came up in the committee with the new members and this time passed 7-2. I can honestly say such a political move leaves me in complete disbelief. The idea that a legislator cant change their mind on an issue, especially when there was a clear reason why she failed to support the current version of the bill, combined with the idea that if you don’t like the vote just change the committee member until you get the desired vote, is beyond me.
This example proves just how corruptive the gambling industry’s influence can be. Make no mistake about it, Casino’s predatory nature destroys the proper role of government.
Many large industries whose products are known to be harmful have faced scrutiny from the courts. We all remember the big tobacco lawsuits and the numerous gun manufactures whose feet were held to the fire. Such lawsuits and tort cases serve as a check when consumers are not properly safeguarded. Now it appears that the casinos many be the next target. Two separate lawsuits in two separate parts of the world may serve to be the springboard for litigation that could help increase consumer protections around problem and compulsive gambling.
The first case was reported by the Associated Press and involves a disbarred lawyer suing six casinos in Atlantic City and one in Las Vegas. Arelia Margarita Taveras started gambling like most others, as a form of entertainment, but she quickly became a compulsive gambler. The AP explains “she would go days at a time at the tables, not eating or sleeping, brushing her teeth with disposable wipes so she did not have to leave.” At one point she gambled for almost six straight days. She stole money out of her clients escrow accounts to pay for her addiction, was disbarred, and now faces criminal charges. She is suing on the grounds that the casinos “had a duty to notice her compulsive gambling problem and cut her off.”
The second case was reported by the Guardian and involves a man who lost over 2 million pounds. Graham Calvert was a compulsive gambler who placed himself on a self-exclusion list. Given his compulsion, he went back to the same bookmaker, opened a new account in his own name and fell back into the same destructive routine to the tune of 2 million pounds. Calvert claims that “knowing his admitted history, they should not have allowed him to open the second account, and failed in “a duty of care” to refuse his bets when it was clear they were part of his pattern.”
Both of these cases will be hard win but Calvert has the most realistic expectations given Britain’s self-exclusion laws, which the bookmaker allegedly ignored. However, both of these cases call into question a duty that the gambling establishment has for proper care of their patrons. Just as a bar has a responsibility to recognize a problem drinker and cut them off, so to should the casinos exercise the decency to cut off problem gamblers, especially those who have reached out for help. Instead, it looks as though the trend of praying on those with destructive compulsions may continue until someone is legally held responsible.