Sunday, 3 November 2013

Guess what? we're voting Tuesday on casinos!

Something popped up in the election materials that reached me last week for our Nov. 5 vote that took me completely by surprise. Lo and behold, we’re going to vote on a referendum authorizing casino gambling outside of Indian reservations! Who knew?

The mayoral race is all but a done deal with de Blasio expected to crush the Rudy Giuliani sidekick by a massive margin. So a lot of people aren’t even aware of the call to urns, and turnout should be more pathetic than usual.

It’s a real pity no public interest group managed to put together an opposing coalition and drum up some propaganda against this very bad idea. The pro-referendum literature in my mailbox is signed by Democratic Party poobahs, no doubt since I am registered as one, along with labor leaders willing to sell out for anything with the word ‘jobs’ attached to it. (The pro-casino coalition is subtly called NY Jobs Now.) The latest poll shows it winning approval comfortably.

This announcement, the first on the topic that has reached me, came exactly one week before the vote will take place. The silence is very convenient for the casino backers who depend on the populace not having a chance to think through what more casinos will mean for our collective welfare. In the last few days, they’re going all-out to overcome any lingering distaste for gambling among the populace with no opposing views getting much airing.

The Times has some standard boilerplate today laying out the reasons more gambling is not what we need, which is better than nothing, I suppose. In it, Cornell University economics professor Robert A. Frank refers to the loathsome ad campaign that the state already runs encouraging poor people to spend their meagre resources on lottery tickets:

As parents tell their children, the best way to get ahead is to get more education, work hard and save for the future. For many years, however, New York has encouraged its citizens to rely instead on luck, to dream about what they’d do if they won the state lottery. “I’d buy the company and fire my boss,” intoned one artfully produced, state-funded television spot.

Governor Cuomo, a depressingly typical example of what non-insane political leadership looks like these days, favors the casino measure as it will enable him to pull in revenue without having to look for tax revenue. That’s convenient for him and his ambitions—not for us.

The referendum includes a particularly offensive requirement that casino taxes go to education. Oh please. Money is money, but this demagogic add-on will permit the pro-casino forces to parade as defenders of Adorable Children, just like the big-box stores now force their cashiers to panhandle you for change so that you focus on their corporate charity instead of the overpriced crap you just bought.

I don’t have moral objections to gambling and have done some myself. But I don’t think the working people of New York need more glossy entities dedicated to separating them from their cash. (The Yankees organization alone is more than sufficient.) Too bad no one got it together to generate a public debate on the issue.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this warning. I had heard nothing about it. I shall definitely vote "NO." We are being urged to think of the American dream as a crap shoot - a few lucky winners, and the rest of us pay. The hope of being one of those few winners keeps people's minds off constructive reform in behalf of the many.