The National Gambling Impact Study Commission

#139 ©Copyright 1999, all rights reserved worldwide. Gambling and the Law® is a registered trademark of Professor I. Nelson Rose, Whittier Law School, Costa Mesa, CA.

The National Gambling Impact Study Commission Final Report

The National Gambling Impact Study Commission has issued its final report.

But nobody cares.

President Clinton, then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott are to blame, for turning what was supposed to be an objective study into a political joke. Congress created this Commission “to conduct a comprehensive study of the social and economic impacts of gambling in the United States.” It required that members be “individuals who have knowledge or expertise, whether by experience or training, in matters to be studied by the Commission…”

The Commission should be made up of “men and women of outstanding character, strength, objectivity and impartiality,” according to former Sen. Paul Simon, one of the Act’s authors. Rep. Frank Wolf, a co-author, agreed: “What you really do not need are zealots on either side.” But here is who the politicians appointed:

1) Dr. James Dobson, president of the right-wing religious organization “Focus on the Family,” who has said he believes God chose him to be on the Commission.

Dobson started his job with strong prejudices: “Thirty years ago, gambling was widely understood… to be addictive, progressive and dangerous. Parents taught their children about its evils, and some families, including my own, would not even permit playing cards in the home.” After studying legal gaming for 19 months, Dobson declared, “I remain radically opposed to it.”

2) Kay Coles James, the Commission’s chair, is a strong advocate of state’s rights. She is also an active member of Dobson’s Focus on the Family, dean of televangelist Pat Robertson’s School of Government and was spokeswoman for the National Right to Life Committee.
Individuals with ties to Nevada casinos were also appointed. This may have been done to balance the “anti’s.” But it moved the Commission further from being a scientific, objective body of experts.

3) J. Terrence Lanni, Chairman of the Board and C.E.O. of MGM Grand, Inc., the largest hotel-casino in Las Vegas.

4) Bill Bible, former Chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board and a long-time friend of Nevada’s casinos.

5) John Wilhelm, President of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, parent of the Culinary Union, which has 40,000 workers in Las Vegas hotel-casinos.

A conscientious search was made to find a Native American, without ties to Indian gaming:

6) Robert Loescher, a strong advocate of tribal sovereignty, says he is neutral on gaming. But his tribe, the Tlingit, negotiated with the governor of Alaska to open a casino.

The remaining three appointments appear to be mere political patronage jobs; these Commissioners admit they knew nothing about gambling when they started:

7) Richard Leone, former New Jersey State Treasurer.

8) Leo McCarthy, former California Lieutenant Governor.

9) Dr. Paul Moore, a radiologist and church elder, who was appointed by

Sen. Lott only because he lives next door to the Senator and is a big contributor.
Conspicuously absent:

  • Any representative from State government, let alone State Lotteries.
  • Any representative from the pari-mutuel wagering industry, horse racing, dog racing, even jai alai.
  • Any representative from any part of the massive gaming support industry (except union workers). Especially missing is the technological viewpoint — anyone who knows how things actually work, such as slot machines, on-line lottery tickets, video lottery terminals, keno games and Internet gambling. Have any of the Commissioners ever seen a paper pull-tab?
  • Any representative from law enforcement.
  • Any patron, anyone who gambles.
  • Anyone who knows anything about compulsive gambling.The Commission made news when it had a heated debated over whether it should recommend a moratorium on any new gambling. A majority voted for the moratorium. This casts more doubt on the work of the Commission, because:

    1) A moratorium is not going to happen; and
    2) This looks like politics, not science.

    A moratorium locks in the monopoly of operators who are already in business. Which states without lotteries and tribes without casinos are going to sacrifice themselves, while their neighbors with gaming get rich? Most of the Commissioners are sincere in believing that states need to study the issue more, before legalizing additional forms of gaming. But, will the public believe that? Or will they see individuals, some openly opposed to all gambling and others with ties to Nevada casinos, who appear to be voting to protect their personal special interests?

    [Professor Rose can be reached at rose@sprintmail.com]

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