SB 553 -- a typical Okie stitch-up

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State Rep. Pam Peterson was on KFAQ this morning explaining the problems with SB 553, the bill that would legalize real casino gambling at Indian casinos and allow horse tracks to offer more limited gambling of the sort currently on offer at Indian bingo halls. Beyond the negative impact on the state, the the compact would run for 15 years, leaving no opportunity before that time for the state legislature to fix any unintended consequences. It still leaves the horse tracks at a competitive disadvantage to the Indian casinos. The state will only be paid by the Indians on a percentage of revenues from new games. Education will not see much money from this, and the legislature is likely to reduce school funding from the general fund to compensate for any gains they make from casino revenues. Because Oklahoma is not a tourist destination, it's estimated that 70% of the revenues will come from our own citizens.

I hear that the OEA is lobbying for this bill. It's a shame that an organization that claims to be devoted to education is pushing an industry dependent on mathematical ignorance.

Beyond the morality and the social effects of gambling, this looks like the usual Oklahoma legislative stitch-up, like the legalization of pari-mutuel betting, which placed restrictions on who could open a track and when they could race, all for the benefit of the DeBartolo family, who owned Remington Park in OKC.

If you're going to open the state up to casino gambling, just repeal the prohibitions against games of chance, and let anyone who wants to open a casino do so. Regulate the industry only to the extent necessary to ensure that the rules of the game are followed -- no loaded dice or stacked decks. SB 553 will only allow certain favored groups and individuals to get in on the act, and since the legislative leaders are in control of who will get in on the act, you can bet they will be richly rewarded by these favored few once they leave office.

That photo of Larry Adair in the Whirled has him wearing the expression of the cat who ate the canary, as if he's figured out how to cash in on this legislative racket, how to convert power to money, and there's nothing you can do to stop him.

I was in western New York recently, and I visited the big Seneca Nation Casino in Niagara Falls, N.Y. The place fills two blocks of downtown (not counting parking). It was certainly a beautifully decorated facility. A separate section of the casino was smoke-free. The slot machines were modern but used 30-year old pop culture references to attract attention. There was a whole bank of slots called "Sale of the Century" featuring the smiling visage of Joe Garagiola, the host of that '70s game show. Another group of machines featured Bowser from Sha-Na-Na. '70s nostalgia?

Years ago, I played blackjack at a few casinos on a trip to Las Vegas and once went on a gambling junket to Elko, Nevada, with a group of friends. I think I lost about $30 on both trips. In Vegas, I sought out the cheapest tables with the most liberal rules. The Vegas Club, downtown on Fremont Street, had blackjack tables with a $1 minimum and liberal rules on the number of decks and doubling down, which improved the odds for the player. Most casinos had $2 minimum tables. With such low minimums and reasonably skillful play, you could make $30 last a long time.

At the Seneca Casino in New York, the lowest minimum on a blackjack table was $15. I didn't bother to play. It's one thing to gamble away the cost of a Quarter Pounder on each hand, but I refuse to gamble away a prime rib dinner on every turn of a card.

Of course, the Senecas have no competition. No one can open a casino across the street offering the player more favorable conditions. (They have a further advantage -- because it's on Indian land, it's one of the few public establishments in the State of New York where you can smoke. You are no longer allowed to smoke in restaurants and bars.) So if you're going to play there for any length of time, you'd better be ready to lose a pile of money, which only makes the social impact of gambling that much worse.

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Michael Bates calls Senate Bill 553, the bill to allow an expansion of gaming, "a typical Okie stitch-up," and explains: SB 553 will only allow certain favored groups and individuals... Read More

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 26, 2004 12:27 PM.

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