Nightlife promoter and bar owner Dave Meinert provides no hard numbers to back up his claim that the state could raise an easy $1.5 billion a year by massively expanding both legalized gambling and alcohol sales in Washington state, yet in attempting to refute my opposition to his proposal, he routinely dismisses me as an “old school thinker” who “doesn’t get it,” and who throws “shit at the wall,” while basically “guessing” about the economics of gaming. So in case he tries to similarly dis me today on KUOW, I thought it best to post a few links to some of my source material:
These are all sources, by the way, that I’ve cited throughout my six years extensively covering this subject here on HA, as well as my behind the scenes activism on behalf of the welfare of problem and pathological gamblers. So if Meinert wants to dismiss me as not knowing what I’m talking about, he does so at his risk.
For those who listened to the show, I a couple of points I didn’t have time to make.
Meinert talked about allowing a limited number of card rooms in Seattle, but that’s not how state law works. State law gives cities the power to either allow or disallow card rooms, but not the power to limit the number, or limit where they may locate beyond normal zoning powers. Once we allow card rooms, we lose all control. It’s an all or nothing, and Seattle has chosen nothing.
I also find it amazing that Meinert would brush off the difference between a problem gambling incidence rate of one percent and five percent as mere statistics. Five percent is five times one percent. Furthermore, while problem gamblers may make up a relatively small part of the general public, they make up a huge proportion of the casinos profits, with some studies showing up to 50 percent of the revenue from slot machines coming from problem gamblers (the 1998 WA study cited above found 40 percent).
Finally, Meinert likes to talk about “starting the conversation,” but we’ve had this conversation again and again, and he’s consistently come out on the losing side, most recently with the liquor privatization initiatives, and a few years back with Tim Eyman’s odious slot machine initiative. Washington voters simply don’t want this, and it is disingenuous to attempt to exploit our current budget crisis as an opportunity for a windfall for bar owners like Meinert.
One further point for the moment. Meinert talks about card rooms and casinos as economic engines, but this simply isn’t true. They don’t manufacture money. Rather, they pull discretionary spending from other discretionary activities, or in the case of pathological gamblers, non-discretionary spending.
His proposals won’t turn Seattle into Las Vegas. Tourists won’t flock here to come to our casinos, nor will Washingtonians cancel their trips to Vegas. Rather, casinos and card rooms and slot machines in bars will mostly compete for local business between themselves, and with other local entertainment venues. It’s a zero sum game, particularly slot machines in bars, which studies show to be the worst form of gambling if your goal is economic development.