Chris Powell: Conn.'s casino and ID nightmares

MANCHESTER, Conn. Alka-Seltzer commercials touting the product's supposedly soothing form of relief used to ask: Why trade a headache for an upset stomach?

That's the question that Connecticut faces with the legislation pending in the General Assembly to authorize a few more casinos near the state's borders to try to keep state residents from visiting new casinos in Massachusetts and New York. (The two Indian casinos in the southeast part of the state already have the Rhode Island border defended as well as it's going to be.)

Yes, revenue at the Indian casinos, shared with state government, has been declining and will continue to decline as Connecticut's neighbors keep more of their gamblers home. The racket that Connecticut and the Indian casinos have enjoyed for 20 years, drawing most gamblers from out of state, is nearly over and soon gambling won't be a winner for any state in the Northeast. Instead states will be plundering mainly their own people.

When its casinos were fleecing so many out-of-staters, Connecticut could rationalize the antisocial behavior engendered by casinos -- addiction, family destruction and theft -- and presume to recover its costs. No more. Casino gambling is becoming just another method of taxing the local population, the revenue drawn disproportionately from the poor and troubled, the very people government supposedly means to help.

Who wins in such a system? Only the casino operators and those employed by state and municipal government. The poor and needy might be helped as much just by getting rid of casinos entirely and imposing better priorities on state government, redirecting its resources more according to the needs of the population rather than those of elected officials and the special interests that control them.

But the legislation authorizing more casinos almost certainly will be enacted. Why? Because while it will mean more headaches and upset stomachs for ordinary people, none will be suffered by government's own employees. That's where most state tax revenue goes now and where most revenue from any new casinos will end up.


Hartford, a "sanctuary city" like New Haven -- a city that refuses assistance to federal immigration enforcement authorities -- soon may follow New Haven in issuing its own identification cards to city residents to facilitate illegal immigration. Only illegal immigrants need such cards, other forms of identification being easily obtainable by anyone who can demonstrate citizenship or legal residency.

According to the Hartford Courant, Mayor Pedro Segarra estimates that as many as 20,000 of Hartford's 125,000 residents are illegal immigrants -- a sixth of the population -- and advocates of the ID cards say those people are "living in fear in the shadows." But then anyone violating the law may have reason to live in fear. That someone lives in fear does not necessarily make him virtuous.

An official of the Connecticut Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says the city ID cards would "ensure that our friends and neighbors are embraced as equal citizens and residents." But most of those obtaining the cards would not be citizens at all; the cards would just allow them to pose as citizens so they might enjoy benefits meant to be reserved to citizens.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform notes that Hartford's ID cards, like New Haven's, probably would be used by many to create some false identifications, since the cities have little ability to verify whatever documents would be presented to obtain the cards and less interest in verifying them.

Indeed, the ID card project is meant only to nullify federal law, the sort of thing that was so contemptible when segregationist Southern governors did it to deny federally established civil rights a half century ago.

But these days liberal nullification has become respectable even though it aims to devalue not just citizenship but nationhood itself.

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