Monday, September 26, 2005

Day 22 - Gee, what's the problem with casino gambling?

Day 22 from the Mojave Desert, specifically, Kingman, Ariz., in a Comfort Inn that finally has a strong, working air conditioner. It is located on Route 66, also named Andy Devine Blvd., for the late actor that is this community’s most notable celebrity. In fact, I showed up just a little too late for the 36th annual Andy Devine Days, proclaimed a state treasure by the governor (they made her parade marshal for that), which drew its biggest crowds ever.
All this honors an overweight actor with a squeaky, high-pitched voice, but who starred with stars like John Wayne in numerous westerns. If you cannot place Andy Devine, one of his most famous roles was the cowardly sheriff in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” with Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Lee Marvin.
But again, I’m old enough to know who Andy Devine was and actually remember seeing him act on television and the movies. Bet you didn’t know that?
Oh, I’m sorry, you can’t “bet” in Texas. You can’t spend your money on anything involving gambling in Texas … except for horse and dog racing, lotto, scratch-off lottery games and other state sanctioned gaming. We’ve crossed the line to the point where it is obliterated but still we raise this flag of morality and pretend to be self-righteous about the methods we employ to raise state revenues. Certain religious factions condone taxes, especially on anyone but themselves, yet bark quite loudly about “hurting the poor” while agreeing with conservatives who think increasing the sales tax is a good idea for poor people.
Who are they kidding and whom are we kidding? Texas is surrounded by states that allow casino gambling – Oklahoma has it; New Mexico has it; Arizona has it; California has it (lots of it in lots of places); Louisiana has it; and Mississippi has it (used to if they don’t rebuild in Biloxi). With the exception of Louisiana, these are casinos operated by Native American tribes and bringing jobs and needed money to a group that has been left FAR behind in any ebullient economy.
Call it what you will, it is still a voluntary form of revenue enhancement. Notice that word “voluntary” because it has depth and meaning. It isn’t automatic; you must enter a casino on your own free will and you play whatever game you play.
And it adds jobs, which means more money in the pockets of people to spend on essentials, which are taxed by the state and could help support menial things … like public school education. Workers might also own homes, which would help with the property tax base. Gee, what’s the problem?
I know, I know. Gambling is addictive and people just can’t help themselves. Well, so are Big Macs and we talked about taxing the hell of them, but not banning the two all-meat patties on a sesame seed bun with that special sauce. To the talk of obesity, people say “It’s a personal choice.” So is casino gambling. Gee, what’s the problem?
Texas is going to get over itself as some sort of moral barrier, standing between Sodom and Gomorrah and a game of blackjack. Casinos have targeted the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth market for extensive advertising because they know they are mining for gold. Why can’t we do things that will keep that gold closer to home?
To all those who object to casino gambling as a way to enhance revenues, offer ONE thing that does that same job WITHOUT raising any current tax, or instituting a new tax.
“We can do better” doesn’t make the grade. I say let’s roll the dice and see how it pays off.

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