Thursday, November 09, 2006

Against the odds

Voters weren't too game to back the house in most of the new gambling proposals around the country.

The Baptist Press reports:
Residents of Ohio, Rhode Island and Nebraska said no to gambling measures Nov. 7 although gambling advocates outspent their opponents by millions on the campaign trial.

Voters in South Dakota, however, failed to repeal video lottery, while Arkansas lifted a statewide ban on charitable bingo and raffle games.

In Ohio, a proposed constitutional amendment known as Issue 3 would have allowed up to 31,500 slot machines at nine sites, including seven racetracks and two non-track locations in Cleveland. Issue 3 lost by a 56-44 percent margin.

The vote marks the third time since 1990 that Ohioans have voted against gambling proposals.

Issue 3 would have sent 30 percent of slot machine revenues to eligible high school graduates for grants and scholarships at all in-state colleges.

The measure's backers spent more than $20 million, likely making the battle over gambling the most expensive issue campaign in Ohio history.

Other church groups also opposed the Ohio slot-machine gamble:

The pro-gambling initiative has been dressed seductively as a "Learn and Earn" campaign to entice voter support with the bait of educational benefits. The motive is not about supporting Ohio children. Rod Parsley said, "This is about the rich getting richer at the expense of those who can least afford to part with their hard-earned income." Alert clergy from a broad group of Christian backgrounds, have condemned Issue 3 as an educational sham and deliberate ploy to trick voters. "Learn and Earn is about greed and bleed," said United Methodist Bishop Bruce Ough. "Thousands of Ohio children from our poorest families will go hungry and inadequately clothed because their parents' paychecks will go into state-sanctioned slot machines. This is bad economics and irresponsible government."

This initiative is financed by Ohio casino and race-track owners and would ride on the backs of poor and already-addicted gamblers. Gambling addiction increases the closer casino gambling comes to where you live.

The gambling industry's own study indicates 109,000 new gambling addicts will be created in Ohio if slots are legalized. A national study shows bankruptcy rates are 100 percent higher in every county with casinos than in counties without casinos. Ohio already has one of the highest bankruptcy rates in the county. "Slot machines are the crack-cocaine of gambling," said Rev. Rebecca Tollefson, executive director of the Ohio Council of Churches. Learn and Earn claims this is about education, but only 30 percent goes to education. Administrative costs come out of the 30 percent. And the cost to administer the program is not yet known. Supporters are running a shameful media campaign suggesting its purpose is to provide college scholarships to Ohio's children.

The gaming industry put a more "positive" spin on it, One of three gaming measures passes. However the only one that passed was a measure simply allowing a casino barge to be moved to a new site following Katrina:
In Rhode Island, roughly two-thirds of the voters overwhelmingly rejected Question 1, a statewide ballot initiative that would have allowed Las Vegas-based Harrah's Entertainment to build a $1 billion hotel-casino outside of Providence on behalf of an American Indian tribe.

Harrah's spent more than $5 million on a public relations effort to gain support ....

Casino supporters had said the facility would bring 3,800 full-time jobs, $144 million in property tax relief, 3,500 jobs during construction, and millions of dollars in business for local vendors.

Because of its location off heavily traveled Interstate 95, Harrah's had said the casino could produce annual gaming revenues of $700 million.

"We share (the tribe's) disappointment at being denied the right to a casino on (their) sovereign land, a right that every other federally recognized tribe in the United States enjoys. We hope that someday Congress corrects this injustice," the company added.

Back on Guam, the owners of the dog racing track also tried to get a proposal adopted, allowing them to put slot-machines at the track. They had the audacity to call that effort, "An Initiative to Revitalize Tourism in Guam and Generate New Revenues for Health Care and Public Education by Allowing Slot Machine Gaming at the Guam Greyhound Park". And they promised fantastic benefits to health and education, and for jobs and tourism: "Proposal “B” provides a new revenue source to fund schools and health care. With the implementation of Proposal “B”, local government funds will be available for text books and prescription drugs."

They propped up their campaign by paying people $5.00 for putting a signature on the "Prop B" petition. They hired a highly respected newscaster to be their spokesperson. They gave $10,000 cash to every village mayor. They gave away a car. But, like the last 2 elections where similar efforts were made, the gamble failed. See, Not A Chance.


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