Gambling ~ Good Public Policy or Pandemic?
April 1, 2021 | View PDF
In March of 1999, my phone rang and it was General Charlie Condon, the Attorney General for the State of South Carolina. I was the newly installed President of the Christian Coalition of Alabama as of January 1999. He gave me a strong sober warning about the future plague consuming our state, if we legalized gambling. His warning in that conversation will never be forgotten and I wanted to share it with you.
I was in the Fob James Administration in 1998, when Lt. Governor Don Siegelman unseated the Governor over one single issue, passing an Alabama Education Lottery. Siegelman was a disciplined, hardworking liberal Democrat, and his one and only campaign issue was passing the lottery. Reporters often questioned him on a cadre of other issues like prisons, economic development or Medicaid. Siegelman had one “cure all” for Alabama’s short list of infirmities, passing the lottery would heal everything and fix all that was ailing the state. He was disciplined staying on message and his work ethic in retail politics was unmatched, this guy was shaking hands in his sleep. We uncovered in our research the lottery concept was severely laced with many flaws, but emerging on top was poor public policy and it would create an infested fertile breeding ground for massive public corruption.
General Condon mentioned he had been monitoring the Alabama gambling legislation and strappingly admonished me to work day and night to defeat the lottery and the video poker bill. He said, “John if this passes in the state, the gambling bosses will pollute and corrupt all three branches of government, and it will take you 10-15 years to clean it up.” He went on to tell me of his current work disinfecting South Carolina’s gambling residue in the courts and the epidemic of white collar public corruption cases of elected officials bribed by gambling bosses. He offered to come to Alabama, so we hosted an Alabama fly around press tour telling the South Carolina story. Because of his position and personal experience, the press did cover his visit and showcased corruption and addressed the poor public policy component.
I recall the 1999 Alabama Lottery arithmetic promised to bring in $150 mm for scholarships and the math just didn’t add up. After you pay the lottery contractors, set up a new bureaucracy loaded with patronage jobs unregulated by the state personnel board, reducing the Education Trust Fund revenues by flushing disposable personal income and elevated DHR expenses, the “Real Net” was only $10 - $15 million at best. Based on the Georgia Lottery model, Alabama would spend about $95 million on compulsive gambling cases, families falling apart, breaking up homes and spiking domestic violence over state sponsored addictions. These costs were not calculated in the puffed up revenue projections by lottery advocates.
Gambling proponents always preach, we already have gambling, we need to tax and regulate it. Alabama auto tags are in casino parking lots in Mississippi and a lottery won’t hurt anybody. Here are the facts; the ONLY current legalized gambling in Alabama is the pari-mutuel gambling at dog tracks. The courts have ruled (although the legal premise is seriously flawed) that dog track gambling is a “Game of Skill.” The court suggests you can watch a dog eat, if he uses the bathroom before running, etc. making it a Game of Skill, not a Game of Chance. The Creek Indian casinos are on sovereign land, outside of state jurisdiction, but they too are operating illegally. Why do you think they needed a compact with the state in the recent failed Lottery – Casino Bill? On yes, a survey taken showed that only 10% - 15% of the cars in out of state casinos were Alabama tags. Remember Governor Riley appointing a Special Counsel to raid the illegal dog track casinos in 2010; he was 100% constitutionally correct, because they are operating illegal on an illegally passed local amendment in violation of the state constitution.
Why do you think they had specific casino locations named in the recently failed Del March Lottery-Casino bill, was it to contain gambling or to choke out future competition, I will let you make that determination.
Why is legalizing the lottery such an explosive subject? Glad you asked! To repeal the lottery prohibition from the Alabama Constitution, requires a 2/3 vote from both the house and senate chambers, and then sent to the people to ratify the constitutional amendment, with a simple majority vote. If that happens, several things are triggered. First, a lottery (Games of Chance) is now legal in the state. Once the constitutional amendment is approved by the people, full scale casino gambling (Games of Chance) can and will take place in every corner of the state. The reason specific allowable locations were mentioned in the Marsh bill was to stave off competitors and have a monopoly on gambling. The final link in the lottery nuclear chain reaction is you just legitimized the illegal Creek Indian facilities. There are only two ways the Creeks can operate legally on their sovereign land; one is a signed compact with the state and the US Department of Interior (USDOI), and or repeal the lottery prohibition through a constitutional amendment. According to the US Indian Gaming
Commission, which is a division of the USDOI, whatever is legal in a state, is legal on the reservation. You cannot run an illegal operation on a reservation in a state, where it is illegal or unconstitutional in the state wherever the reservation resides. The US Indian Gambling Commission is chaired by 3 corrupt former Indian chiefs, who turn their heads; I know this from personal experience. What are they smoking in those peace pipes?
Facts driven by research studies, suggest that gambling preys on the poor, the elderly and our youth. Everyone dreams of being the big winner, when in fact only 1 in 30 million win the lottery and 1 in 70 million win the multi-state Powerball. Gambling addictions tear families apart and drives up social cost on every front. White collar crimes soar because high stakes gambling debt breeds embezzlement and credit card theft. Sound like good public policy?
Attorney General Condon told me the hidden dark secret is “LARGE SUMS” of cash finds its way to gambling commission members, legislators, other highly visible and vocal public advocates for gambling. He said that is why it takes so long to cleanse your state from the pandemic prompted by gambling expansion.
A simple vote for a lottery is not guileless and the associated cost is astronomical. Following on the heels of that innocent vote guarantees legalized casino gambling statewide, permanently inks in Indian casinos on the reservations, increases white collar crime, further breaks up the family unit through additions, feeds public corruption with cash pays offs and bribes.
From the experiences and wise counsel from my friend, former Attorney General Charlie Condon, gambling expansion in any form is Poor Public Policy and fuels an unbridled Public Corruption Pandemic with no immediate inoculation or vaccine in sight.
Alabama currently looks a lot like Bedford Falls in the Jimmy Stewart movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Do we want Bedford Falls or Pottersville? Good Public Policy versus a Pandemic of immeasurable proportions.
I am a personally a long-time NO Vote on Gambling Expansion, hope you join me.
Poor Public Policy!!