A quick perusal of the recent financial disclosure reports for I-892 — Tim Eyman’s “Slots for Tots” initiative — reveals an interesting footnote. While the bulk of the money comes from Canadian and Nevada-based gambling conglomerates, a fair number of bowling alleys have also contributed to the campaign.
Support from bowling alleys comprises the heart of Eyman’s claim that this is a battle for equal treatment for mom-and-pop businesses against a powerful “tribal monopoly.” Indeed, in the days following the initiative’s announcement, a handful of bowling alley owners made the rounds of talk radio arguing just that point.
I remember one particular phone call from a woman who pleaded for slot machines on behalf of the bowling alley that had been in her family for three generations. She claimed she just couldn’t compete against the tribal casinos anymore, and if I-892 didn’t pass, she would probably shutter the family business.
Now, at the risk of sounding unsympathetic, I’d like to impart a bit of wisdom from one small businessperson to another:
YOU’RE RUNNING A FUCKING BOWLING ALLEY!!!
And perhaps, instead of trying to compete with the tribal casinos, you should spend a little time and effort promoting… gee, I don’t know… bowling?!
Saying that bowling alleys need slot machines to compete with tribal casinos is like saying Chuck E. Cheese’s needs a liquor license and strippers to compete with the Deja Vu.
The point is, if you can’t make ends meet enticing people to chuck balls at pins, then perhaps you’re in the wrong business. Or sadly, perhaps bowling just isn’t a viable industry anymore.
That may sound harsh… but that’s capitalism. And until the tribes start building bowling alleys instead of casinos, I don’t want to hear anymore whining about unfair competition.
When I was a kid I loved to go bowling, despite the fact that I fairly consistently sucked. As a parent, bowling has its own rewards: playing against a 7-year-old girl almost guarantees me an occasional win.
I want bowling to survive… but as a rationale for legalizing slot machines, I find the argument utterly and completely ridiculous.
Besides, reluctantly putting my feet into those rented shoes is a gamble enough.