The following opinion column appeared in Spanish in El Nuevo Herald on earlier this week. Below is the a portion of the editorial in Spanish and then the full English translation. In either language, the meaning is clear – casinos are bad news for the people and businesses in surrounding communities.
DANIEL SHOER ROTH: Los casinos no se dejan vencer
Decía sabiamente Napoleón Bonaparte que “la victoria es del más perseverante”.
Parece que los mercaderes de los juegos de apuestas y sus aliados en el Capitolio de Florida siguen al pie de la letra aquel célebre precepto para instaurar, no el Imperio Napoleónico, sino el “Imperio de los Casinos”.
Recién estrenada la sesión parlamentaria en la capital estatal, empieza a escucharse por la península el tentador tintineo de la industria tragamonedas –y tragavidas– con propuestas para ampliar el alcance de sus tentáculos, entre estas la creación de dos ostentosos casinos estilo Las Vegas en nuestra comunidad, no obstante las adversidades de índole social que sobrepasan el usufructo de los ingresos fiscales y los placeres mundanos que prometen estas entidades discordantes con la distintiva identidad de Miami.
Para leer el columna completa en la página web de El Nuevo Herald, haga clic aquí.
DANIEL SHOER ROTH: Casinos are not easily beat
“Victory belongs to those who persevere most.” So used to say, quite knowingly, Napoleon Bonaparte.
It seems that the merchants of the games of chance and their allies at the Florida Capitol are following Napoleon’s celebrated rule in order to establish, not a Napoleonic Empire, but a Casinos’ Empire.”
With the legislative session just getting started in the state capital, one can already hear, all around the peninsula, the tempting clinking of the money swallowing slot machines –which also swallow lives. There are proposals to widen the reach of their tentacles, most notably the creation of two Las Vegas-style ostentatious casinos in our community. All regardless of the adversities of a social nature that surpass the usufruct from the fiscal incomes and the worldly pleasures promised by these entities so discordant with Miami’s distinctive identity.
In addition to the casinos, the rainbow of legislative proposals in the lower Chamber encompass passing dog tracks as gaming centers, reducing the tax obligations of casinos with racing facilities –splendid donors of statewide electoral campaigns–, and widening the offer in Seminole Tribe-managed casinos to include new games of chance with higher risks for bettors and more misery for their next of kin.
Ignoring the human tragedy that is the addiction to the games of chance, legislators showcase the above changes under the euphemism that they will reduce betting. “This project provides an unprecedented contraction of gaming in the state,” Representative Dana Young said this week in announcing a package of laws encompassing over 300 pages.
The colossal tourist-destination casinos in Miami and Broward represent a threat to small business of all kinds, since they seduce their clientele, particularly the young, with the bait of subsidized meals, free-flowing alcoholic beverages, and lodging. Needless to say, these funds multiply with gusto in the game room where, emboldened by a sense of invincibility and omnipotence, the more compulsive allow their savings to evaporate, become indebted, and wreck havoc within their families, the community and the tax payers who subsidize the expenditures of the judicial system, the police and the public healthcare industry. These are expenditures that stem from fraud and other fiscal crimes, the bankruptcies, the suicides, the divorces, the domestic violence, and the loss of productivity.
It is no coincidence that in Tallahassee these days they are fidgeting with allowing retail chains such as Walgreens, Publix, Target and Walmart to showcase bottles of hard liquor in shelves dangerously close to the toys, the aspirins and the toilet paper, instead of displaying them at their adjacent stores separate from the supermarket and the pharmacy, as it is the norm now. And the legalization of medical marihuana, with its pros and cons, again takes center stage at the Capitol regardless of the defeat suffered by their followers in last year’s referendum.
In the meantime, as they leave behind a seed bed of problems for the citizenry while laying out the red carpet for the devastating disease of addiction and alcoholism, the kingpins of Florida’s government, for ideological reasons, take no pity on those residents of fewer means who lack medical insurance, and who suffer the penuries of pain and fear unable to have access to healthcare.
Surviving without medical insurance is one of the worst nightmares of the unhealthy. Arriving at the emergency room when at the threshold of their afterlife is not only bewildering to them, but also to those of us who pay their medical bills through taxes, higher policy premiums, and exorbitant hospital costs. Nevertheless, our intransigent legislators refuse to accept the expansion of the Medicaid program as a component of the regulations of the national health reform, which otherwise would allow one million Floridians to qualify for Medicaid without any major expenditures by the State. There is a lack of mercy. Love for you fellow man is also lacking; there is no respect for the morality of the Golden Rule.
These are the poor who envision in the roulette and the blackjack tables their passport to buying needed medications or food for their kids’ empty stomachs. Many of the clients of the casinos are lowly paid workers or retirees who live on Social Security. Because of their sheer size, the proposed tourist casinos will draw a larger share of the public, and be a dead weight for the already precarious public infrastructure. Wouldn’t it be better to concentrate in strengthening the famished low-cost housing programs whose funds are continually diverted to the general budget by members of government?
A few days back, in Miami, developers unveiled the renderings of the most colossal commercial mall to be built in the entire United States. It included megastores, a theme park, an ice-skating rink, as well as other eccentric attractions such as an artificial ski station. Because of its expected avalanche of visitors, it would be phenomenal for Miami-Dade County’s tourism industry and government. The project, nevertheless, does not help the quality of life of the residents who already suffer from an infernal traffic flow, lack of parking, higher rents, expanded road tolls, and sky high prices at myriad neighborhood businesses aimed at tourist pocketbooks. Additionally, the announced mega project will gobble our priceless natural resources.
“Only one step separates the subliminal from the ridiculous.” So said Napoleon. A simple misstep at the height of the illusions brought by these humongous casinos and commercial malls –both strongholds of consumerism and materialism–, could end up in disaster. And we’re only one step away.