Friday, June 16, 2006

Crystal Ball Department

My pundit's crystal ball is out of the shop good as new, so I might as well peer into it and see what's what with the future.

Let me set it for 2010.

Hold on, an image is arriving. I see people lined up at a craps table at a big casino. At another, they are playing 21. I see a throng of gamblers around a roulette wheel. There are poker tables aplenty, each seat filled with players.

Where is this happening? I'll move my crystal-ball minicam to the outside and do a scan. What's that I see in the distance?

Why, it's the Philadelphia skyline!

Why am I not surprised? To use the adjectives employed by its supporters, the monumental, astonishing, incredible, breakthrough, historic property-tax bill passed by the state House on Wednesday is predicated on the state getting $1 billion in revenue from gambling.

Currently, slots is the only gambling permitted in Pennsylvania. (Not that any slots parlors are up and running yet. My crystal ball says the first won't even open until 2008.)

What happens when the slots yield less than the promised $1 billion, as it inevtiably will?

We will have three choices: (1) reduce the amount of property tax assistance offered by the state to our beloved seniors and local schools districts; (2) raise the income tax or sales tax to make up the difference; (3) allow gambling to be expanded to include other games of chance.

Which do you think the legislature and governor will pick?

You don't really need a crystal ball to answer that question.

In the meantime, there's a speedbump on the roadway to progress.

Ted Decker, chair of the state's Gaming Control Commission has warned there may not be any casinos in our future, unless the seven-member commission can agree on competing lists of slots suppliers.

The gambling law requires that the casino operators purchase their slot machines from Pennsylvania-based firms which, astonishing as it may seem, have ended up being dominated by politically-connected investors.

The commission can't decide how to divvy -- I mean allocate -- the business among the competing firms. Stalemate has ensued. Without an approved lists, there can be no slots suppliers, without slots suppliers there can be no slots parlors, without slots parlors there can be no....well, you get the point.

The problem here is that the gambling legislation required the commission to operate under a "super-majority" -- any action is takes must be approved by five commissioners -- and the four appointed by each legislative caucus and the governor's appointee must be included in that majority.


Blogger rasphila said...

It isn't just compulsive gamblers who are addicted to gambling. It's politicians as well. When are they going to figure out that gambling is no solution to the state's financial problems? Sure, it transfers a lot of money into the state treasury, but at a very high social cost. Not all the gamblers are high rollers—in fact, most of them can't afford their losses—and nobody ever went into the casino business with a view to losing money.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Jim in West Chester said...

Of course the expansion to full-blown gambling in PA is inevitable. Do you remember when the PA Lottery was a 3-digit number once a day (not on Sunday)?

What I want to know is what happens to the politicans' addiction to 'easy money' when every state has gambling and the cash cow drys up.

What vice will they legalize next? Drugs? Prostitution?

1:06 PM  
Blogger plshark said...

The problem here is that this was rigged to line the pockets of the politically-connected from the get-go. Nothing about the slots deal passes the smell test.

2:07 PM  
Blogger Russ Diamond said...

plshark is correct.

Act 71 needs to be repealed and they should go back to the drawing board.

10:43 PM  
Blogger NE Suburbanite said...

Just as back on 9/11 most Americans were totally unprepared for the terrorist attacks that occurred in the U.S. that day, in Philadelphia's case on the road ahead it's like here we go again, deja vu all over again, once thet slots parlors in this city go into full swing.

And given our city's close proximity to Atlantic City, it's really no mystery why the crooks who enacted this quickly pushed through gambling in Philadelphia's case did not allow for widespread public debates and intelligent studies first. As Steve Wynn said in the 1986 TV documentary "Big Gamble In Atlantic City" hosted by Bill Moyers, when he was confronted with all the negatives that took Atlantic City by total surprise, "Now the next state does not have Atlantic City's excuse."

For Philadelphia had a lot of ways it could economically turn itself around for the better prior to this casino legalization proposal. But as anyone who tried to launch those alternative ways here in this city knows, such alternative ways were fully blocked at every single turn, with that in turn being the "proof" that Philadelphia had no choice but to turn to gambling at this point to economically turn itself around for the "better." But what Philadelphia will see on the road ahead will not be better by any means. As Atlantic City art dealer Reese Palley (who also appeared in that documentary) said: "It's not gonna get any better, it's going to get more. And until we change the more to better you're gonna get nothing." And 20 years later now we KNOW that to be true.

And now that more that Mt. Palley was referring to is coming to Philadelphia as well, and with all the certainties of a well-devised terrorist attack that no one here's prepared for. And I DO mean no one.

And paying homage to Steve Wynn's remarks in that documentary, what IS our excuse? For truth be said we don't have one. For well ahead of the fact -- unlike how it was in Atlantic City's case 29 years ago -- we all know this isn't going to work. And if we don't, then I guess we deserve what's to come, which will be every single one of us asking, "Why did we let this happen?! Why did we let this happen?!" After it's too late, of course...

1:06 AM  

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