Monday, October 23, 2006


The Providence Journal is smoking crack:

We endorse the proposed Narragansett Indian Tribe destination-resort casino to be run by Harrah's in West Warwick. So we recommend voting yes on referendum Question 1 on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Okay, first of all, I never really understood why papers endorse issues in the election. "Hey, you like our reporting. We're going to tell you what you should do!" I especially don't understand why papers endorse referendums. But, all that aside, I just don't understand why people think a casino is going to save Rhode Island.

When I was thirteen, the Narragansetts wanted to put a casino in my hometown. I remember my mom was politically active then and she had many meetings with other town officials to keep the casino out of our town. That referendum was defeated. Now the Narragansett Indians want to put a casino in West Warwick.

The first issue is always jobs. "Casinos create jobs! Jobs!" Sure. But on the whole they aren't high-paying jobs with insurance-- they are customer service jobs. And, on the other side of that issue, many people lose their jobs when they become addicted to gambling.

From the ProJo editorial:
The project would produce many new jobs -- first, several thousand construction jobs and then several thousand permanent positions. It would also provide substantial property-tax relief: Some of the revenue from the project would be dedicated to such relief, much needed in a state with among the country's highest such levies. And the casino would increase state income- and sales-tax revenue, thus reducing pressure for rises in those taxes for Rhode Islanders. That, in turn, could make it easier to draw other business to the Ocean State.

Bullshit. Every time a massive new project is undertaken, it's always about tax relief. As my Mom said, they said raising the gas tax would improve roads. Most of the bridges in Rhode Island look like they're about to disintegrate like a rusty barrel. I just don't understand why the ProJo got sucked into this line of reasoning-- casinos are not in business to provide tax relief. They're in business to make as much money as possible. With the rampant cronyism in Rhode Island politics somebody's pockets are going to get lined, but they won't be the pockets of Joe Average in West Warwick. That guy is fucked.

Then, we get into the "but Connecticut has casinos and is stealing our money" argument:
There would be that much more money spent in stores and other businesses in Rhode Island rather than there.

Uh-huh. Casinos aren't just gambling facilities; Mohegan and Foxwoods both have restaurants, spas, stores and hotels. My Mom's hairdresser is only a few miles from the proposed site of the casino, and she knows she'll be out of business within a couple years of a casino opening down the road. Casinos try to keep people on-site as much as possible, not encouraging gamblers to leave the casino to spend their money at Rhode Island's other businesses. The decent Italian take-out place next door to the hairdresser? Done.

My Mom's friend lives in Connecticut, not far from the casinos. She also works in the school system, which has to shell out millions more dollars to support the children of immigrant workers who moved to Connecticut to work at the casino. More ESL teachers, more special needs teachers, more of everything. So if taxes aren't raised from those needs, it's certainly eating into the tax relief Connecticut residents thought they'd be getting.

They go on:
As for gambling itself, Rhode Island and most other states have been deep into state-sponsored betting for years -- starting with the state lotteries established in the 1970s. To complain about yet another gambling venue seems a bit disingenuous at this point.

Another thing that was supposed to benefit tax revenue. "Lottery will relieve taxes!" As you can see, Rhode Island isn't living cheap when it comes to taxes with the gambling facilities it already has. Why would a mega-casino help? And buying lottery tickets is different-- stores that were already open, such as Cumberland Farms or packies just put a machine on the counter. This is a huge construction project that will cause traffic tie-ups, people to get frustrated with the crowds and move. The only time this happens with lottery tickets is when the Powerball jackpot is obscenely high.

Then, the "white people hate the Indians" argument:
Many also complain that the Narragansetts are partnering with a big, out-of-state gambling company in their project. But the Narragansetts have been pushed toward this alternative.

THAT IS BECAUSE PEOPLE DON'T WANT OLD PEOPLE ON OXYGEN TANKS GAMBLING AWAY THEIR SOCIAL SECURITY MONEY IN THEIR TOWN. God. This is so far from a white man vs. oppressed group issue. All the ads the Narragansett Indian tribe is running are about "how many promises" have been broken. And as sympathetic as I am to the fact that history hasn't been good to them, a casino isn't going to make it better. How about scholarships for your children? Maybe you'd like to try and lure businesses to your land? Why is it always a casino that will make up for broken treaties?

In closing:
We like other forms of economic development much more than gambling: research and development, manufacturing, international trade and other sectors. Consider what a boon boosting the port at Quonset would be in long-term wealth creation!

Bingo. (Pun intended.) This is what Rhode Island needs: Actual businesses that create productive jobs with benefits and room for improvement and not thousands of cocktail waitresses. Manufacturing jobs, luring large companies into New England to take advantage of all the college graduates in the area (maybe some of the Narragansetts who got the scholarships), more drug companies such as Amgen, science jobs, maybe even a publisher or two. This is what Rhode Island needs-- a way to get young families interested in staying, not packing up and heading for cheaper pastures.

This editorial paints Harrah's, Donald Trump, and the Narragansett Indians as the saviors of Rhode Island's economy. This is just not how it is. All of these groups are trying to build this casino for one reason: Money for themselves. Not for property and sales tax-relief, not for improving schools or increasing tourism in other areas of the state. Just money for themselves. Don't believe the bullshit. A casino in Rhode Island is a terrible idea. Rhode Island should be luring another business to create economic development, not trying to create marginal economic relief on the backs of people whose lives would be ruined by a casino.

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