Of Casinos and Promises; Gov. Walker’s Criteria Right On Target

From the desk of Wisconsin Family Action president Julaine Appling:

ImageThe proposed off-reservation casino in Kenosha.  Governor Walker’s three criteria that must be met before he approves a new casino in Wisconsin. Remember that issue?  

To refresh your memory, after years of seeking permission from the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C., those pushing for a new casino in Kenosha were finally given the ok late last year. All that is left for that casino to become a reality is for Governor Walker to approve it.

Early in this process, Governor Walker reminded Wisconsin citizens and the tribes that in 2011 at a meeting of all the tribes, he laid out three very clear criteria that must be met before he would approve a new casino in The Badger State.  He based the criteria on a 1993 referendum that the voters passed indicating no expansion of gambling in Wisconsin. Those criteria are community approval, all the Wisconsin tribes agreeing, and no net increase in gaming in our state.

The governor originally imposed a deadline for himself to make a decision of about a week.  Surprisingly, as that deadline approached, our action-oriented governor said he was going to extend it by a few days. That deadline passed and we were given another deadline, which also passed with no decision announced.  In all, we missed three deadlines and our typically very decisive governor eventually said there was no deadline.  We’d know his answer when he was sure he had all the facts and information he needed.  Suddenly, the criteria weren’t even mentioned anymore.  And that’s where we currently are with this issue.

The Menomonie tribe for 20 years has been seeking approval for this casino in Kenosha.  If it is ends up being approved, it will be the first off-reservation gaming facility of its kind in the state.  In other words, it will be precedent-setting and therefore will make it hard to tell the next tribe no when it wants a similar off-reservation casino in our state.

If you listen to the Menomonie officials and others who support this project, you’d think a new casino is Wisconsin’s answer to all our jobs and economic woes.  They claim that now that Hard Rock Café is involved, it’s not just a place to gamble but it’s a destination point, a must-see, big-draw, can’t-miss entertainment spot.

ImageTo all of this I say, baloney.  Even if all their pie-in-the-sky promises and projections were true, I think the tradeoff is horrible. To put it bluntly casino gambling is bad for Wisconsin because it’s bad for her best natural resource, her families. 

Institute for American Values recently did some extensive studies of casino gambling. One of their studies, Why Casinos Matter: Thirty-one Evidence Based Propositions from the Health and Social Sciences shows clearly that one thing Wisconsin does not need is another casino.

Here are some of the very pertinent highlights of this report:  A modern slot machine is a sophisticated computer, engineered to create fast, continuous, and repeat betting. Modern slot machines are carefully designed to ensure that the longer you play, the more you lose.  Modern slot machines are highly addictive. Modern slot machines are engineered to make players lose track of time and money. Casinos depend on problem gamblers for their revenue base.

Living close to a casino increases the chance of becoming a problem gambler. Problem gambling is more widespread than many casino industry leaders claim. Problem gambling affects families and communities as well as individuals. Young people are viewed as the future of casino gambling. Working in a casino appears to increase workers’ chances of having gambling problems. Working in a casino appears to increase workers’ chances of having health problems.

Casinos extract wealth from communities. Casinos typically weaken nearby businesses. Casinos typically hurt property values in host communities.

There’s more in this report and all of these assertions are supported with carefully cited research.  After hearing this information, if anyone really cares about our state and its future health and prosperity, why would we encourage more gambling with another casino? 

The Governor’s criteria are right-on target.  Expanding gambling in our state is likely unconstitutional, but that aside, it’s most assuredly not in our best interest. We would all be well-served if our governor will keep his promise and use the criteria he so wisely established.

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