There are so many things I’d like to share with you about the conference. Over the next few months, I’ll try to devote separate postings to some of the individual topics covered in DC.
But of all the many important things I took back from Washington this weekend – the one thing I wanted you to know right now - is that we are not alone. We are truly a united national fellowship of just ordinary people committed to doing the right thing.
Seated together in that conference room were delegates from California, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Texas, Illinois, Maryland, Florida, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and a few other states I can’t even remember.
We were republican, democrat, independent and libertarian. We were conservative, moderate and liberal, religious or otherwise, and also urban, suburban and rural.
At one point in the conference our delegation was recognized and our state referred to as being ‘the latest victim’ of the shallow promises of the gambling industry and the Svengali-like effect it has on our legislators.
The other delegates smiled at us knowingly. Their states were the early ‘victims’ and most of them have been fighting this battle for many long years. Some, for decades. Which is why I realized how very truly fortunate Massachusetts is to be able to learn from their experiences. Our state’s fight will have it’s own unique challenges, but at least, thanks to them, we won’t be re-inventing the wheel.
But Massachusetts didn’t show up at the conference empty handed. It turns out that, for us, technology in the form of blogs has opened up a new frontier for reaching the generally unreachable - politicians. It's also become a fertile frontier for galvanizing the grassroots, and sharing ideas (not to mention a sense of humor) unlimited by the constraints or opinions of the traditional media - speaking of which - reporters are reading them, too.
Les was just one of a panel of incredibly diverse and knowledgeable speakers, including - for the first time - two inside whistle-blowers. But as someone from a state just entering into this conflict, I learned what may perhaps be the two most important lessons for our commonwealth simply by listening to the more experienced delegates.
At dinner and lunch and during breaks CasinoFacts listened to anti-casino veterans relate an all-too-familiar story of how casinos were supposed to be their state’s salvation. That addiction could be contained, and every problem mitigated. That jobs would multiply, the economy flourish, and taxes go down. And yet, in each and every state, this proved not to be the case, many with disastrous consequences.
Lesson #1 – there are NO success stories for a state with legalized gambling.
Another observation I made was that all of these delegates came from states which initially opened up legalized gambling along with numerous restrictions in place, like those planned for Massachusetts, only to see those restrictions, over time, lifted, subverted or abandoned.
One casino invariably leads to another - despite promises and assurances to the contrary. Gambling parlors onboard riverboats with a maximum $500 per hour limit and a 2 hour tour would eventually become “boats in a moat” – a riverboat shaped gambling casino with an artificial moat dug around it and hence, a never ending cruise - with a $500 per hour limit.
The numerous ‘creative’ ways the gambling industry has found to get around state laws is mind blowing.
And States which legalize gambling for the purpose of acquiring additional state revenue - eventually become dependent on it. And when they need more revenue, gambling will expand.
Lesson #2 – Once you open the door, it can’t be closed.
But Massachusetts will be different, right?
I have no way of knowing how long this battle will rage, but I do believe it’s a battle worth fighting. Legalized gambling is a disease which feeds on the body, mind and soul of both state and nation. Irresponsible government fiscal policy, at the expense of citizens, under the guise of entertainment, for the sole benefit of billionaires.
With only six months of this conflict under my belt, and still much to learn and experience, I’m honestly encouraged by how many things, according to the other delegates, our little group has already done right.
In the last hour of the conference delegates were offered a chance at the microphone. People I’d never met, whose names I never knew, but who share with me a common drive and purpose stood up and shared their success stories, their battle scars and their knowledge.
Looking around that room I saw no victims. Only survivors.