Friday, March 25, 2011

Wanna Bet?

In a piece in the Pioneer Press, long-time friend of Fraters Gary Larson wonders whether racinos will finally crack Minnesota's gambling compacts?:

Contrast this free ride for the casino monopoly with the racino proposal, which would yield $250 million in benefits every biennium to the State of Minnesota, ad infinitum, possibly more in the future, besides creating jobs and tourist draws. Oh yes, and spurring a healthy boost for the state's once-robust horse-breeding and keeping industry.

Clearly it is a win-win-win situation for the people of Minnesota, both rural and urban. As for the DFL, a party that typically embraces higher taxation, it is expected its faithful followers will fall into line again with the monopolists. They have so very much to lose, honestly, as they re-run again for elective offices. Something is at work here, folks, and it ain't tiddlywinks.

Rather it is Big Money, crass and simple, connected to politics-as-usual, and shuffling of megabucks to one political party's campaign coffers.

Since 1989, affluent tribes now blessed with bustling, well-run casinos have enriched the DFL with millions — nearly $1.2 million in 2010 alone. It was all on the up-and-up, totally legal, through their PACs. A tiny metro-area tribe alone anted up nearly half that amount — $528,000 — as well as $50,000 to a "529" anti-GOP advertising fund called, rather ironically, "Win Minnesota."

In plain fact, state DFLers pulled in 94.6 percent of all tribal political gift-giving in 2010, according to state records. "Rs" got the table crumbs. It's true. You could check state campaign finance records.

Monopolists jealous of their monopoly, teaming up with social conservatives (a.k.a. moralists), will again label "racinos as "expansion of gambling." That was their mantra in the past. But is wagering at already existing state-licensed gambling venues, such as horse tracks, really, truly "expansion"?

Or is it public-approved "competition"? Monopolies abhor competition. So, too, does one political party, blessed at present by tribal largesse. As bright-eyed Bette Davis once said in a film, "Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night." After that dark and bumpy night, state-tax-paying racinos might well be in the gambling mix in Minnesota.

I've been torn on the "expansion of gambling" matter for years. On the one hand, my libertarian instincts say that if people want to piss away their money at a casino and the state can realize some much needed revenue in the process, then why not allow it? On the other, my conservative instincts make me realize the damage to society that gambling brings and recognize the dangers posed when the state encourages its citizens to engage in reckless behavior that it ultimately benefits from. The problem at this point is that the gambling horse in Minnesota is so far out of the barn that closing the door now seems like a futile gesture. If we’re going to have gambling in Minnesota and the ills that come with it—and there’s no sign that there is any possibility of it shrinking any time soon—then we might as well manage it in a way that benefits the state as a whole rather than favoring particular groups with the right political connections.