Chris Powell: Conn. losing a casino war it started

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Connecticut is losing population again, but 
state legislators -- at least some prominent Democratic ones -- are determined 
that the state shouldn't lose any more gamblers. Noting Massachusetts's impending 
descent into casino gambling, the legislators propose to authorize construction 
of two or three more casinos here, strategically placed to discourage the 
state's gamblers from heading to casinos in Springfield, the Boston area, Cape 
Cod, and New York, thereby forsaking Connecticut's two Indian casinos in the 
southeast corner of the state. 

"Massachusetts has declared economic war on us," Senate Majority Leader Bob 
Duff, D-Norwalk, harrumphed at a press conference this week, "and we're going to 
strike back." 

Massachusetts  declared economic war? 

Where has Duff been?  Connecticut declared the casino 
war, practically on the whole country, when the state authorized its Indian 
casinos 25 years ago, making inevitable the nationwide expansion of casino 
gambling that is now under way, as one by one states have tired of losing 
domestic gambling revenue to their neighbors. 

The legislators are trying to frame the issue as a matter of saving jobs in 
Connecticut. This is nonsense. The Democrats are after the money just to 
compensate for the steadily declining tribute being paid to state government by 
Connecticut's casino Indians in exchange for the state grants of monopoly as 
gambling opportunities arise in neighboring states and reduce traffic to 
Connecticut. Indeed, other legislators are simultaneously clamoring to increase 
other forms of gambling, such as the state lottery, and that has nothing to do with 
jobs either, just getting more money. 

The money will be used mainly to continue supporting government's own employees 
in the style to which they are accustomed. They can't be asked even to give up 
Columbus Day as a paid holiday, a paid holiday no mere taxpayer would dare seek 
for himself. 

Throughout a couple of decades Connecticut made hundreds of millions of dollars 
from gamblers in neighboring states, but the state's near-monopoly is gone now and 
each state soon will be stuck fleecing its own people. In these circumstances 
every dollar spent to support a job at a casino will be only a dollar 
transferred from supporting a job elsewhere in the same state. 

Of course, the jobs protected by casino expansion will include those of police 
officers, prosecutors, judges, prison guards, parole officers, and social 
workers, who already handle the robbery, theft, and family abuse to which many 
gamblers resort as they feed their addiction. 

Meanwhile, Connecticut legislators are also considering putting tolls on the 
state's expressways at the borders, another scheme advertised as a way of 
getting out-of-staters to pay for government here -- as if Connecticut residents 
don't travel too and won't paying such tolls as well. 

If, as the legislators are suggesting, ubiquitous casino gambling should become 
public policy and people should be encouraged to gamble as a substitute for 
taxation, Connecticut might as well cancel the grants of monopoly to the Indian 
tribes, which expect to be given control of any additional casinos, deregulate 
casinos entirely, and let anyone open one wherever he can get zoning approval. 

Twenty-five years ago the better part of the case for the Indian casinos was 
their monopoly and location away from population centers -- the 
confinement  of such gambling. If casinos are to be quickly 
accessible everywhere, they can be taxed comprehensively and produce as much 
revenue for state government as the Indian casinos do, and nobody will need 
casino Indians. Then the gross offense of ethnic privilege, so contrary to what 
the country purports to represent, can be erased without cost. 

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn. 
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