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
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
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.