Legal gambling would undermine 'The Good Life'

Monday, July 12, 2004

A recent Wayne Stroot editorial cartoon printed in the Gazette pointed out the irony two of Nebraska's leading political figures -- one from each end of the political spectrum -- joining forces in opposition to casino gambling in the state.

Just like the weather, Nebraska politics just seems to get weirder and weirder.

But love them or hate them, Nebraskans of every political persuasion respect both U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne and State Sen. Ernie Chambers, and when those two unite against a cause, residents of the Cornhusker state have to sit up and take notice.

Nebraskans have a long history of hard work and personal responsibility. Plant your crops, water and tend them through the summer and, come fall, with a little luck and the grace of God, you'll have enough to make it through the winter.

Do your homework, study hard and you'll get good grades. Keep at it long enough, and you'll be qualified for a good job, and be able to provide a good home for your family. Stay on the job, work hard, and you'll be ready for an enjoyable retirement in a few years.

McCook, in fact, has a special stake in Nebraska's traditional way of life, since we're home to the Work Ethic Camp, where nonviolent offenders are given a second chance to learn the personal responsibility necessary to fit in to our society.

But gambling undermines this effort, and threatens the very way of life on which Nebraska depends. It started with the state lottery, which despite its benefits -- see the Barnett Park renovation under way in McCook -- brought along enough inherent problems that it had to include built-in provisions for helping gambling addicts.

The expanded gambling sought by proponents would bring along enough problems to more than counterbalance any benefits it would create.

For instance, consider the following quote:

"People will spend a tremendous amount of money in casinos, money that they would normally spend on buying a refrigerator or new car. Local businesses will suffer because they'll lose customer dollars to the casinos."

Tom Osborne? Nope. Ernie Chambers? Try again.

Donald Trump, casino owner.

According to University of Illinois Prof. John Warren Kindt, in congressional testimony July 2, 1994, "A study conducted for the state of Sough Dakota found that, after casino gambling was legalized in Deadwood, S.D., business declined significantly at nearby restaurants, clothing stores, recreation services, business services and auto dealers. Within two years, legalized gambling constituted one of the leading causes of business and personal bankruptcies among South Dakota residents."

Gambling is bad for business. But the personal costs are worse. Gambling preys on the weak and creates gambling addicts. Research shows that it will actually cost the state and its citizens up to $3 in social costs for every $1 it promises in tax revenue. Expanded gambling is a sure loser.

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