Monday, October 15, 2007

Mrs. Kravitz Goes to Washington

In the wee hours of the morning this past Friday, a small delegation from, including your's truly, threw it’s suitcases, cameras and laptops in the back of a car and drove down to DC to attend the annual conference of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling (NCALG), and the National Coalition against Gambling Expansion (NCAGE).

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.


Anonymous said...

Thank you. Thank you for going and thank you for writing about it. I'm with you- no casino in Mass!

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Casino's are for the weak and the meek.The needy and greedy. I saw alot of bad coming with Gov. Patrick. I must admit casinos never entered my mind. If our lawmaker's are so ignorant, and casinos are the wave of the future, I'll save you a seat in the handbasket.NO CASINO(S)!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Mrs. Kravitz. As I read it, I found myself still stunned that this soul eating disease called gambling has dug an ugly little foothold in Middleboro. Just a few years ago this would have been unthinkable. But here we are, suddenly clinging on tightly to preserve life as it ought to stay.

Obviously the investors are conning us into believing that somehow legalized gambling will solve our Commonwealth's problems. Their deceit is despicable and totally self serving. Too bad our new governor doesn't have the savvy and backbone to see the truth and stand up for it.

I know we have some big hurdles to overcome. But it is worth fighting for what we believe. Keep the faith!

Anonymous said...

You go girl!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing what you learned and keep it up.
This is so pathetic that people are so easily convinced by the initial job creation and glitzy promises, but then Middleboro spent $19 million last year on the lottery.
The investors picked a gullible community that was easy prey.
You raised a good point about casinos not stopping at the initial promised limit.
How can we say no to the track owners? How can we say no to others?
The Middleboro Selectmen voted tonight to approve Keno in a restaurant, the Chicken House. Does that even make sense?
Wayne Perkins made a comment about the new owner 'cleaning the place up.' Oh? Dave Fisher owned it before. Was it a problem?

carverchick said...

Gladys, a truely inspirational piece. I look forward to reading more about your trip to Washington. It really lifts the spririt to hear that so many people agree with what we have been saying since day one...people who have already been through this battle and are willing to aide and guide us in our time of need. The lessons you learned are valuable and I hope that our legislature will heed the warnings. Patrick is certainly trying to open up a pandora's box and it will quickly spiral out of control if this bill passes. Our taxes WILL go up, regardless if there is one or ten casinos...I would gladly pay higher property taxes to get through the tough times. Sure, I would do the obligatory "whining and complaining", but I see my home as an investment...not a financial investment, but an investment in my and my family's future. Looking at the "big picture" I really would like my son to have a chance at the childhood I had...growing up in a small, safe and quiet community. Casinos are not an investment in our future..and they will certainly not lend to a safe and quiet community. No Casinos in MA!!