A bit of gambling advice for Gov. Gregoire and my Democratic friends in the state legislature: don’t take the wager that you can let the proposed Spokane Tribe gambling compact slide through without much debate or opposition. It’s a sucker’s bet.
This compact is a bad deal for everybody except the Spokanes, and would inevitably lead to a massive expansion of gambling statewide. If well publicized, it would also be immensely unpopular with voters, and could lead to real political repercussions.
The WSRP has been grasping at straws these past couple years looking for an issue that holds traction with voters, and in their opposition to the Spokane compact they have found one that crosses party lines. Just two years ago voters overwhelmingly defeated I-892 — Tim Eyman’s slot machine initiative — by a 61 to 39 percent margin. (It failed 63 to 37 percent in Spokane County.) Yet the Spokane compact would essentially do for tribal casinos what I-892 hoped to do for card rooms and bowling alleys.
By federal law the Spokanes have the right to negotiate the same terms offered the other tribes in Washington state, but the same is true in reverse. If the Spokanes get 4,700 Las Vegas style slot machines, every tribe in the state is going to reopen their compact looking for the same deal. The same is true of the increased betting limits offered the Spokanes.
State Republicans sense the enormous political opportunity this proposed compact gives them, and they don’t even have to resort to lies, hate-mongering and obfuscations to make their point. So hot is the WSRP on this issue that they even made it a primary focus of a recent conference call with journalists and (mostly) right-wing bloggers.
With little else to spark widespread voter ire at their Democratic colleagues, the R’s are prepared to make this one of the signature issues of this session. Don’t let them.
Voice your opposition now. Oppose this compact and instruct the negotiators to go back to the table. It’s not only good for the state, it’s good politics.
Roger Rabbit spews:
Yes I know gambling is very popular, but where does all this money come from? Are people so ill-informed or have such poor judgment they throw their money away in these joints? Don’t they realize the enormous profits casinos make come from them? Or, maybe, is this just an expensive entertainment they gladly pay for whatever “entertainment vlue” they get from hoping for a big score? How many of these people actually keep track of their wins and losses, and how many of them would invest in a business that produces a bottom line like frequenting casinos does? To each his own, I guess. I don’t go into those places.
The Lottery = a tax on people who can’t do math.
I don’t know much about the specifics of this proposal. The tribes have been trying for years to get through the historical ban on slot machines. But I don’t know how much difference it makes – currently they have machines which use a cash card to debit/credit an account, which they cash out at the end of the day. How much more difference does it really make to be putting actual money in the machines?
I don’t have a problem with people driving to the nearest tribal Casino and playing. I don’t gamble myself, it hold no appeal to me. If I want to gamble, I’ll do it with my own investments, or start up another business. But I do see it as a way for the tribes to get out of their historic financial difficulties. I think the Tulalips in Marysville have done it right. They use the profits to develop large commercial properties along I-5, which now house a Wall-Mart, Home Depot, a car delership, a discount mall, etc. in addition to their new Casino. I’ll even go to the Casino with my family just for the buffet in the restaurant. If it means some money flows from the non-natives to the Native Americans, then I consider it a rather innocuous form of “reperations” for past sins, paid on an entirely voluntary basis.
But the expansion of the “mini-casinos” into the local neighborhoods a few years ago took me by surprise. There didn’t seem to be any public discussion, and suddenly they were popping up everywhere. I’ve noticed a few of them have gone out of business, and I wouldn’t be sad if all of them did. If somebody is going to take the trouble to drive to a tribal casino, they are going to gamble anyway. But having two every block, sometimes right next to residential neighborhoods and schools, doesn’t sit right with me.
Also, gambling is subject to the law of diminishing returns. Since the house will always win in the long run, most gamblers will eventually tire of losing money and drift away from the casinos. Therefore the casinos have to take steps to keep luring new people in, or keeping the current customers interested for a bit longer than they would be otherwise. (Of course, gambling addicts are an exception to this rule).
So the state started with a lottery, arguing that the money was going to illegal gambling anyway, and the state might as well benefit. Then the tribes kick in, arguing that the State is gambling already, so they should have the right to allow gambling on their reservations. Then the state has to try to lure back people to the lotter by more aggressive advertising campaigns, bigger jackpots. The casinos respond with slot machines (using credit/debit cards instead of cash). Then the private card rooms and taverns argue that they can’t compete unless they can offer the same things (hence Tim Eyman’s proposal), and they make a deal which allows them to open up on virtually every street corner. Which makes the Native casinos push for real slot machines, etc. Tribes who’s reservations aren’t convenient to major interstates try to work out “land-swaps” so they can place their Casinos right near a freeway exit.
If the Spokane tribes want a casino within the existing rules, fine. But I don’t see any need to change the existing rules.
Facts Support My Positions spews:
So I hear the CIA told the Bush administration twice “Do not leak the name of Valerie Plame, people will be killed” from testimony from the Libby trial.
Gotta suck being a Bush supporter these days.
Remember what Clinton said “I wonder what would have happened if it was my staff that outed a CIA agent”……
They would still be talking about it at least 20 times a day on Faux News Distortion Channel.
John Barelli spews:
The News Tribune had a pretty good editorial about this as well, making many of the points you’ve made here, with one addition.
In the past, Governors have been able to effectively veto these “land swap” deals by simply ignoring them. If the Governor simply takes no action, the thing falls apart.
In the deal with the Spokanes, there is a clause that requires the Governor to “deliberate and act in good faith” with regards to the land swap, which prevents her from ignoring it. When you add in the fact that the courts will likely get involved if the Spokanes choose to believe that Governor Gregoire did not “act in good faith” (by turning them down) and what they would decide is anyone’s guess.
I really can’t see where this is a win for anyone except the Spokanes. Of course, when you’re running a casino, the house always wins.
I just wish this state were a little more sensible about Poker. The insane criminalization of online poker baffles me. It seems like most gambling policy in this state is geared towards protecting lucrative gambling (tribal and state) monopolies. I hate to see the state and gambling interests get in bed together so to speak. I loathe the lottery, slots machines give me headaches. But poker that is a whole other story. It is one of the few activities that allows me to tune out the stresses of the work day and zero in on the here and now. For me it is relaxing like meditation. I find it fun, very competitive, full of depth and complexity, intellectually rich, and sometimes financially rewarding activity.
But why must I be a criminal if I decide that I don’t want to drive out to a card room or up to Tulalip to play the game? The whole policy seems inconsistent. I don’t have any online accounts for poker because it is just not something worth becoming a felon over. You can play online for pretend money and that makes for a risk free way to learn the game. But it just isn’t the same without some sense of monetary commitment.
To me regulation seems like the sensible thing. Create policy that protects the players and citizens. The state claims that it wants to eliminate criminal element around gambling but with prohibition don’t you reinforce this element? Society would do better to move this stuff out of the shadows and under the spotlight of regulation. Online poker I suppose offers some benefits in that if you win a couple thousand dollars off somebody you don’t have to look over your shoulder hoping not to get rolled as you make your way to your car.
I think of poker as a kind of closed financial system among the players. Pretty much the money gets passed around between the players, with more skilled players winning more in the long run. The only exceptions to this are the tournament fees and cash game rakes one must pay a card room. Why would the state so aggressively limit a system like this? Simple answer the easy money is not there for them. But yet we have these sweetheart deals between the state and the casinos. The whole thing is rotten to me personally.
Am I wrong or is there a coherent argument that says games like poker should be lumped in with other forms of gambling, much less selectively discriminated against?
And on the national level you have that whole sorted affair with Frist pushing through a sneaky little rider that serverely curtailed online poker.
It seems to me that is an issue that Democrats could use to attack the right wing with. Make sensible alignments with the libertarian and centrists in the country and drive a wedge against the religious fundamentalists and extreme nanny state elements on the left and right. Most ordinary folk understand the rationale behind something like this. But instead we have pandering politicians and casinos colluding to protect their own financial interests and attack American institutions like poker under the guise of a moral indignation. It is this kind of nonsense that turns voters off.
And so I think Goldy is mostly correct in the coming backlash. But I also think there are political points to be made by doing something that actually reflects the interests of citizens and not institutions or the state. Protecting or at least differentiating poker would be one way to score those points in my mind. Not prohibit it while actively expanding other forms of gambling.
And why not a wholesale expansion of poker in the state? Let small businesses run poker games unrestricted. Attract people to their establishments and let the compulsive gamblers get their kicks on a game of skill while supporting local economies and businesses.
Speaking of house always wins… if the long term losing odds are not enough to take a gambler’s money there is always the fall back of cheating by the casino. Win a jackjot on that fancy new slot machine? Not so fast, it was a “software glitch”. But I doubt regulating or correcting these glitches is a high priority for government agencies or casinos. Makes for a nice plausible denial and convenient route toward limited financial liability.