Legal Gambling Wins Historic Election

written by I. Nelson Rose

#2010-6 © Copyright 2010, I. Nelson Rose, Encino, California. All rights reserved worldwide. Gambling and the Law® is a registered trademark of Professor I. Nelson Rose, November 2010 elections were historic, but not for the reason most people think.

The President’s party always suffers in mid-term elections during economic hard times.

Sure, the Democrats lost a lot. But not everything. The Republicans could not even gain control of the Senate.

But 2010 did make history. It was the first time in American history that more proposals to expand legal gambling won at the polls then lost.

Voters approved new casinos for Maine; Anne Arundel County, Maryland; and Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

About the only losses were Measure 75, which would have authorized Oregon’s first privately owned casino, defeated by the state’s casino tribes; and the advisory Measure U, for a competing tribal casino in Richmond, California, defeated by that state’s licensed cardclubs and casino tribes.

And then there is Iowa. The law requires residents in each county to vote every eight years on extending the lives of their state-licensed casinos. In 2010, 17 counties separately voted to keep their casinos.

Of course, no Iowa county has every voted to not renew a casino. But, 2010 was a year of far-right religious and political victories, including, or maybe especially, in states like Iowa. It was in Iowa, after all, where voters used the ballot box to remove three State Supreme Court Justices who had voted in favor of same sex marriage.

And in rural Wapello County, Iowa, population 35,000, residents voted against allowing a casino, 52% to 48%. Of course, this narrow defeat was on bringing in a casino, not kicking out an existing one. Anti-gambling, tea party morality is apparently stronger when saying no to hypothetical casinos then when it would result in lost jobs and decreased tax revenue.

In the distant past, say 50 years ago, being associated with any form of gambling, legal or not, spelled doom for a politician. Now, it is possible that advocating that existing legal gaming should be ended paints a candidate as being a nut.

Sharron Angle lost the Senate race after she was recorded saying a number of crazy things, including that she wanted to make alcohol illegal – in Nevada! Her candidacy was further hurt when it was revealed that she was backed by anti-gambling activists.

And Bill Brady said five days before the elections that, “Video poker is the scourge of Illinois.” He narrowly lost his race for Governor.

So what will happen now? On the federal level we will have two years of stalemate, the Republicans being rewarded for becoming the party of “NO!”

We really are in tough economic times. And saying that the number one priority is the federal deficit does not make it so. Economists agree that what the country needs right now is more government spending, not less.

But with Republicans blocking any additional stimulus money, there will probably be little job growth, and no federal help for the 46 states that can’t balance their budgets. State lawmakers and governors, even conservative ones, will grow ever more desperate for revenue.

Since legislators can’t raise taxes, or cut services, they will turn to that old painless tax, legal gambling.

And apparently that is exactly what the voters now want.

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