Monthly Archives: March 2008

Kentucky’s Casino Dreams Waning…

Guest Article: 

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.

the harm statistics will never tell

In the world of gambling it can be hard to get policy makers and the general public to look to the hard facts of the gambling industry. And for those involved in the process who do, they too often look at statistics alone and not to the part of the story that the statistics will never tell. One great example of looking beyond the statistics comes in a story from the Daily Telegram out of Minnesota. They report the story of a fire chief who embezzled almost a quarter-million dollars over six years from a local fire department to fund his gambling addiction after “he ran up large credit card debts, refinanced his home and took out large loans, but ran our of options to pay for his addiction” . The embezzlement statistic, however, does not tell the entire story. The Daily Telegram continues to explain:

Gotelaere headed a department with just 34 firefighters. In spite of the personnel cuts, the department’s responsibilities grew to include emergency medical and hazardous material response, gearing up a dive team and fire prevention and education. Grant money given to support some of those activities funded the scheme.

“I would hate to think he was lining his pockets while firefighters were being cut,” Matheson said in a statement to the court. “During his tenure as fire chief, I also witnessed our fire stations deteriorate. I’ve seen the purchase of lower-grade equipment. I’ve heard him say we would have to bypass the training of firefighters because of overtime costs. I have witnessed Steve not purchase firefighter gloves required by the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) … The firefighters purchased the gloves on their own. This in a period of time he was stealing from the department.”

How many people in that town were affected by the struggling fire department because of just one man’s gambling addiction? Every time gambling expands more and more problem gamblers enter the fold. And every new problem gambler brings the risk of not only financial destruction of their own lives, but also all those around them including some that we would have never otherwise thought possible. The statistics will never tell the whole story but they cannot be ignored.

true colors

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.

Maryland Teachers Union Backs Slots

From Family News in Focus by Steve Jordahl

The Maryland Teachers Association is funding a ballot referendum to bring slots to the state.

Even Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot thinks it’s a bad idea, saying, “Slots are the wrong way to pay for education. This is a regressive tax that brings crime, corruption, and the destruction of entire communities.” Still, union spokesman Daniel Kaufman says he is not sure.

“Frankly we haven’t really seen any hard evidence that’s the case.”

Chad Hills of Focus on the Family Action says the union could not have done due diligence.

“(It) did not look very hard. It’s readily available if you type in ‘gambling addiction’ on Google.”

Kaufman says they are hoping to get between four and six hundred million dollars a year if the slot referendum passes muster with voters in November. Doug Stiegler of the Family Protection Lobby says any money will come from those who can least afford it.

“Even where it’s being located shows that they’re going to be putting it into areas where the poor people can get most access to it.”

And what comes in the front door will be taken out the back.

“The money coming from the slots will not go to education, it will go to the general budget and education will get more or less depending on the budget, not on slots.”

Kaufman admits that could be the case.

“We can never 100 percent guarantee, unless it’s written into the constitution (the legislature) can pass new laws and make changes.”

Still, it’s a gamble the teachers union is willing to take. Then again, it’s not betting with its own money.

March Madness: Better Without Bets

From Focus on Social Issues – Gambling by Chad Hills:

Athletes, universities and businesses pay too high a price gambling on March Madness.

Mid-March marks the beginning of the NCAA college basketball tournament season. Teams from across the nation will play ball for 21 days straight. While the nation’s best collegiate athletes from the South, East, Midwest and West are competing in basketball, however, bookies are playing both the athletes and fans. No doubt you’ve had a bracket sheet slipped onto your desk or a stack of bracket sheets dropped on the lunch table. Unknown to many, betting on sports is only legal in the state of Nevada. Nonetheless, illegal sports betting is rampant in the United States. But are the athletes, universities, fans and businesses paying too high a price for these illegal wagers?

Read the whole story including statistics, the law and solutions by clicking here.

new video feature added

We have just updated this blog by adding a video feature on the right hand column below our “links” section. We will be adding our latest audio and video public service announcements and commercials in addition to interviews and important news updates.

You can view all of our current loss limit public service announcements right now in the video section.

The yin without the yang; not quite complete

Kansas City is not the only market considering expanded gambling and it’s certainly not the only one to consider hitting the breaks when looking at the economic data of new casinos’ entrance into the market.  The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission unanimously decided to hold off taking applications for new gambling licenses.  This decision was reported by the Des Moines Register and was based on the idea that an in-depth economic impact study should be commissioned before new expansion should take place.

This is a positive first step for those looking to expand gambling as the National Gambling Impact Study’s final report recommended a moratorium on all gambling until such economic impact studies were conducted and analyzed.  However, the studies to be conducted in Iowa will fall short of the mark for determining true economic impact:

The proposed study will examine the impact that granting additional casino licenses would have upon existing casinos and consider whether there are “underserved” pockets within Iowa’s gambling market, [Commission Chairwoman Kate Cutler of Council Bluffs ] said.

The research won’t examine the social ills caused by gambling addiction in Iowa, although it will explore potential negative impacts of gambling upon other Iowa retail businesses, such as Main Street restaurants in communities with casinos, she said.

How can you determine the economic impact of a casino if you refuse to look at both sides of the coin?  True economic impact is not just measured in benefits from tax revenues but also in the cost to states.  It is a well-documented fact that for each dollar a state collects in benefits from the casino, three dollars are spent cleaning up the social ills.

Studies like this are important when determining if a new casino will simply displace funds from other casinos, or other business, but they do nothing to determine the true impact the people of a state must deal with.  This is the kind of junk science that is perpetual pushed by the casino industry and it must be rejected.  It’s time to refocus the conversation.

called off on account of rain…

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.”’

Does the corruption ever stop?

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.

national problem gambling awareness week – fact of the day

From the National Council on Problem Gambling:

In Mississippi domestic violence centers reported 300% increase in requests for help after casinos opened

(National Gambling Impact commission Study)

Distasteful actions and broken promises

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.

national problem gambling awareness week – fact of the day

From the National Council on Problem Gambling:

Survey of 144 spouses of compulsive gamblers found 50% were physically and verbally abused by spouse and 12% had attempted suicide.

(Bland, Newman, Orn & Stebelski, 1993)

KY Gov. Beshear “fixing the deck” on gambling legislation

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.

national problem gambling awareness week – fact of the day

From the National Council on Problem Gambling:

Emergency room study showed odds ratio of intimate partner violence increased 10.5 times when partner was problem gambler.

(Muelleman, Denotter, Wadman Tran & Anderson, 2002)

dollars and sense

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.