“…when casino interests say “gaming”, they really mean “gambling.” Gaming is what our kids do with Madden NFL 12 on their Wii or Xbox. Gambling is when you wager money.
No doubt the gambling industry did some focus groups and decided to cleverly rebrand what their business is all about. For the sake of intellectual honesty, let’s call it what it is. It’s gambling, and the “destination casino” bill is an effort to legalize gambling.”
By John Sowinski | Guest columnist
September 25, 2011
You can almost set your clock by it.
Whenever we are in a down economy, the hucksters for casino gambling come out with a new plan to expand legalized gambling in Florida. This time they’re calling it “destination casinos” and they want our legislators to pass a bill that would legalize full-scale casino gambling in Florida.
As usual, they promise that it will be “limited,” in this case to certain areas of the state (for the time being).
There will be a lot of talk about this issue in the coming legislative session, so to help the casual observer of the politics of gambling, here are a few things that you need to know that will provide context to what you will be reading and hearing.
First, when casino interests say “gaming”, they really mean “gambling.” Gaming is what our kids do with Madden NFL 12 on their Wii or Xbox. Gambling is when you wager money.
No doubt the gambling industry did some focus groups and decided to cleverly re-brand what their business is all about. For the sake of intellectual honesty, let’s call it what it is. It’s gambling, and the “destination casino” bill is an effort to legalize gambling.
Second, when they say it will create jobs and tax revenue, what they aren’t telling you is that most of these jobs and taxes are at the expense of jobs and tax revenues that already exist in our economy.
That’s because gambling is a predatory industry, and in already developed business environments, it primarily cannibalizes economic activity from existing businesses.
That’s why 40 percent of Atlantic City’s restaurants closed and one-third of their retail establishments went out of business when casinos opened there. In the middle of a barren desert casinos might create commerce. But in the middle of a well-developed economy, it just creates problems.
Third, you’ll never hear gambling interests talk about the social costs of more crime, more compulsive gamblers, more broken families, and more problems with teen gambling (except to shamelessly downplay them). Kids are subject to more advertising than any of us.
And you’ll never see gambling interests admit that pervasive advertising for legalized casino gambling increases illegal gambling activity — often by teens — which in turn leads to higher levels of lifelong compulsive gambling.
But these factors are all inevitable consequences of expanding legalized gambling. You’ll also never hear them talk about who has to pay for all these problems. That’s because we, the taxpayers, are forced to bear this burden.
Fourth, they won’t talk about the corruption of public officials that is too often associated with expanding gambling, and even efforts to expand gambling.
We don’t have to look too far to find examples.
The last major effort to legalize casino gambling statewide resulted in Bo Johnson, then speaker of the Florida House, being paid $250,000 from casino legalization supporters. He later went to federal prison for failing to report that and other income. There are numerous other examples around the country. More gambling equals more public corruption.
And fifth, casino interests say new gambling will be “strictly limited.” Our legislators should ask them this: If it is such a great thing, why not have it everywhere?
The reality is this: from the broken promise of the lottery until today — every time gambling has been expanded in Florida, that expansion has snowballed into exponentially more gambling than was originally promised. In the history of gambling policy in Florida, there is absolutely no exception to this statement.
Gambling is a cancer on our society. It continues to spread, unless somebody draws the line and says “no more.” It is time to draw the line, and stop the expansion of gambling in Florida.
John Sowinski of Orlando is the president of No Casinos. He ran the campaign to defeat a casino gambling initiative in 1994.