Don’t balance the budget on the back of problem gamblers

Bold leadership

Gov. Chris Gregoire is “seriously considering” legislation that would allow four-minute Keno games as a way to help deal with a projected $2.6 billion budget shortfall.

The games could bring in an estimated $30 million a year. That’s not much money compared with the budget gap, but lawmakers are hunting for any cash they can find.

Or, you know, we could try a high-earners income tax, or even a temporary, broad-based tax increase, rather than raising revenue primarily on the backs of the poor and the gambling addicted.

Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Margarita Prentice, D-Renton, said she may sponsor the Keno legislation. “We wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t an absolute necessity,” she said.

Absolutely necessary? I’m sure Sen. Prentice could find other creative ways to raise an additional $30 million. Just taxing the contributions of payday lenders to her own campaign could get us a significant portion of the way there.

Another idea: eliminate the discriminatory tax break granted last session to print newspapers.

Oh, and a tip to the broad based coalition of bizarrely allied activists and interests groups opposed to expanding gambling in Washington state… as much as I sympathize with their needs and concerns, perhaps tribal leaders are not our most effective spokespeople?

Ron Allen, chairman of the Washington Indian Gaming Association, opposes the move. Allowing the expanded Keno game would take away money from casinos run by the tribes, he said. “The market is only so deep, and we’re close to saturation now,” he said.

Such a proposal also would lead to a large increase in gambling in the state, he said, noting that’s something Washington residents have indicated they don’t support.


Gee, I dunno, now that Norm Maleng is no longer with us to coherently make the anti-gambling argument from the respectable middle, maybe it would be more effective to have a religious conservative like Jeff Kemp publicly speak against the moral and social harm of gambling rather than having the chair of the Washington Indian Gaming Association pontificate about how much Washington voters oppose its expansion?

Just a suggestion from an ally who has spent much time and though effectively framing this issue.


  1. 1

    PhilK spews:

    I’m not sure about the state, but the city could be saved by a “World-Class City” tax.

    Every time Blethen or one of his lackeys uses the phrase “world-class city” in an editorial advocating some taxpayer-funded give-away to billionaires, the Times has to pay the city of Seattle $1000.

    If they could make it retroactive to the days of Mindy Cameron and “The Commons”, it could rake in millions.

  2. 4

    Deb Eddy spews:

    Goldy, possibly you should just shut down the commentary portion of this blog? It’s a fine post, wherein you do what you do so well in pulling together sources into a coherent story with a definite angle/opinion (which I agree with in this case, for sure, although you and I are known to disagree).

    But then, here’s this … uh, what’s the word? … that makes up the immediate response. Oy. “I’m Back” should go away again.

  3. 5

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I-892 Wins Recount!

    Five years after losing at the polls, Timmeh’s initiative to put slot machines on every street corner has received the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval by Gov. Growgrass, who would rather turn Washington into a Shanghai gambling den than do anything about our state’s broken tax system.

    And for what? What’s a lousy $30 million in a $30 billion budget? 1/10th of 1%, that’s what. But Gov. Growgrass would rather watch the grass grow under her feet than actually do anything. During her 2004 campaign, she was full of ideas about how to spend money on things like early childhood education, etc., but even then displayed a phobic aversion to thinking about the revenue side of government. Which is a problem, because money doesn’t grow like grass.

    Even if she refuses to address Washington’s long-term structural tax problems, the governor needs to understand that a temporary tax rate adjustment to cope with the recession is not a tax “increase.” Washingtonians have given themselves a huge tax cut by staying off car lots and out of stores. The decline in state revenue represents money that has stayed in taxpayers’ pockets. People are paying less taxes now.

    And because the cutback in consumer spending exceeds the decline in personal difference, the public’s gain from these tax reductions exceeds the loss of income due higher unemployment and lower self-employment income. Thus, this is not merely a relative tax cut, but a real one.

    But the public’s demand for public services, and the state’s need for revenue to provide those services, hasn’t gone away. Thus, it’s only reasonable to temporarily adjust tax rates to recapture a part of the tax cut windfall to consumers. I’m not saying all of it, only part of it; I’m for leaving some of it in consumers’ pockets with the hope they’ll use it to stimulate the local economy. There’ll still be budget cuts, service reductions, state employee pay freezes, etc. All I’m suggesting here is a compromise between tax cuts and spending cuts. We should go halfway, not put the entire burden of the recession on the spending and service side.

    Playing around with lottery games to squeeze another 30 mil out of gambling suckers is no more than window-dressing. C’mon, gov, that’s kid stuff. Get off your butt and do something real. You may think you’re playing it safe by pandering to the anti-government, anti-tax crowd; but that won’t get you a third term because they won’t vote for you anyway, and by continuing down your present path you risk losing the enthusiasm, support, and votes of many of your friends and supporters who put you in that office.

  4. 6

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @1 Seattle will never be a world-class city until it has a world-class newspaper. All we have right now is a Little Nickel Daily Shopper.

  5. 7

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @4 So you want to shut down the whole commentary because of one jerk? Here’s a thought: If Goldy shuts down his comments, then Seattle’s other news outlets — the Times, KING 5, etc., — should shut down theirs, too. And also the “Letters to the Editor” column. Because there’s nothing of any social redeeming value coming from their readers and viewers.

  6. 8

    ivan spews:

    I don’t get what makes one sin tax intrinsically any better or worse than another. We tax booze and smokes, and that’s just fine with me. So’s taxing Keno. Senator Prentice is right and Goldy is wrong.

  7. 9

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @8 I suppose you could argue that anyone dumb enough to gamble deserves to be relieved of their money. The problem with this argument, though, is that gambling preys on the poor and dumb — those most vulnerable and who can least afford to lose. What a fine sense of morality and social responsibilty you have!

  8. 10


    What about the the people that Keno and drive?

    I really do think that if we just stop giving money to red counties then the citizens will be motivated to act (tax) in their own self interest. This is a Republican ideal, they should understand how powerful, right it is to get rid of levy equalization, saving $60 million dollars.
    Then, maybe, the state Republicans will feel motivated to increase revenue.

  9. 11

    dutch spews:

    Goldy…you have seen nothing yet. I predict that we will have full fledged casinos outside the indian reservations within 5-6 years. Queen Chris will use this to “balance” the budget…call it improving tourism but…use it as revenue.
    Ocean Shores…here we come…

  10. 12

    Murgen spews:

    I agree that gambling is probably the worst revenue policy idea that can be pursued, with one exception — cutting the programs that depend on state revenue. This tax on people who can’t do math should be the last alternative out of the box, rather than the first, but should be seriously considered if the alternative is cutting programs. As for the tribes, you reap what you sow, and you can’t put the gambling genie back in the bottle and isolate it to your own geography once you’ve unleashed it.

  11. 13

    Michael spews:


    I’m Back” should go away again.

    There’s something we agree on!

    Making people register and banning folks like I’m back would cut down on that sort of thing.

  12. 14

    ivan spews:

    Rabbit @ 9:

    My sense of morality and social responsibility are just fine, thank you. I don’t answer to you for them any more than I answer to Cynical or any of the other trolls around here.

    I don’t gamble, I don’t smoke, and I don’t drink a lot of hard booze — because I love the stuff. But people are going to do all these things whether I do them or not, and what they do is their damn business, and not yours nor mine. If they do, the state should get its cut. If these people want to be suckers, it’s their problem. Nobody’s holding a gun to their heads.

    If you and Goldy want to be nanny-staters, be my guest. I’m not having it.

  13. 16

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    On-line POKER is next.
    It is the King of the Kash Kows.
    Ahnold has already been approached.
    California will do it first.

  14. 17

    Michael spews:

    Expanding gambling shrinks the amount of public dollars available, it doesn’t expand it. The revenue the state takes in might increase, but so will the need for social and police services. Non-profits, city, county and tribal governments will need more funds to deal with the problems that come with expanded gambling.

    This is just like the proposal to transfer of some of the state parks. That proposal didn’t reduce the amount of public dollars that were needed, it just shifted that need away from the state government.

    We could get rid of a few of our sales tax exemptions like this one:

    RCW 82.08.0272
    Exemptions — Sales of semen for artificial insemination of livestock.

    The tax levied by RCW 82.08.020 shall not apply to sales of semen for use in the artificial insemination of livestock.

    [1980 c 37 § 38. Formerly RCW 82.08.030(20).]

  15. 18

    Michael spews:


    And local governments will take it in the teeth when that on-line gambling causes an increase in bankruptcies and foreclosures.

  16. 19

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @11 You’re complaining? You guys did better than you thought in 2004 and 2008. A closet Republican won those elections.

  17. 20

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @14 What you’re saying is you’re of such weak mind and character that you can’t visualize any role for government other than indifferent neglect of its weakest and most vulnerable citizens. I’m not having it.

  18. 21

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Private Charity vs. Public Welfare

    The conservative mantra is government shouldn’t help needy citizens, that should be left to private charities. I can think of several things wrong with that.

    1. Private charity depends on the willingness of people to give, which isn’t dependable.

    2. Only government has sufficient resources to meet society’s needs.

    3. The public has no say in how private charities are run, whereas public programs are governed by a democratic process.

    4. Government policymakers can expand programs and resources to deal with public emergencies, such as a major disaster or economic crisis; private charities can’t do that.

    5. Private charities can put exclusionary restrictions on their aid, such as restricting it to members of a given church; public welfare is accessible by all on an equal and nondiscriminatory basis.

    In short, the argument that private charities are an adequate substitute for government social welfare programs is bogus. A system of private charity is what this nation had for 130 years from its founding to the onslaught of the Great Depression, whcih was plenty of time to prove its inadequacy.

  19. 22

    Michael spews:


    Plus, you still have to give to private charities so they can do their work- its not free.

    Catholic Community Services, Lutheran Community Services, The Red Cross, The American Lung Association, they all receive funding from the Gov’ment.

  20. 25

    Broadway Joe spews:

    I was surprised by who the chair of the WIGA is. If you don’t know, Ron Allen is/was the chair of the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe outside Sequim, who run the Seven Cedars casino. His brother Jeff (Zeke to his friends) was my banker when we lived in Port Angeles, not to mention a bowling buddy of mine.

  21. 26

    Broadway Joe spews:

    That said, I don’t see a problem with a Keno game run by the State. Anybody who’s been in Oregon in the last decade or so sees how much state-sponsored gambling goes on there, and I’ve spent enough time there (the band I was in at the time basically lived in Bend for four or five years) to know that there’s no real impact on the populace. In fact, the state advertises more for problem-gaming relief than the actual gaming itself from what I’ve seen. The ‘poor tax’ idea is something of a straw man IMHO.


    IIRC, online poker would be more of a federal issue than a state issue, Cyn. And on top of that, how would the state make any money on it? Remember, it’s only gambling if the house holds an edge of the gamblers, and anyone who’s ever been in a poker room knows that the house only deals the cards. Which is why poker rooms are legal pretty much everywhere. If the California legislature approved such a plan, bet the farm (no pun intended) on a federal lawsuit and an injunction, and the whole thing tied up in the courts for years. As it is, California’s tribal casinos are still growing like mushrooms, and are largely responsible for the downturn in business both in Las Vegas and here in Reno. So perhaps Ahhhnuld should consider asking the tribes to cough up a little more instead of trying such a risky scheme.

  22. 27

    Michael spews:

    According to the 1999 report of the congressionally mandated National Gambling Impact Study Commission, problem gamblers cost society $715 each annually; the more serious pathological gamblers, $1,200 per year.

    That means that in this state alone, problem gambling costs $78 million annually.

    King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng, who heads a group called Citizens Against Gambling Expansion, said his deputies regularly see the effects of problem gambling in the cases they prosecute.

    “The way it plays out is increased instances of domestic violence and child neglect,” Maleng said.