Do politicians have brains?

Do politicians have brains?

April 10, 2018 3:00 AM


Among my many pet peeves regarding most politicians is the now sadly commonplace total and complete lack of understanding when it comes to gambling. With more and more states authorizing an endeavor formerly only legal in Nevada and more recently in Atlantic City, we see what can only be described as ignorance unabated.

Is there no surcease from the unrealistic taxation expectations? Is Nevada so poorly regarded nationally that legislators in other states seem to refuse to look to the Silver State to determine which gambling laws work and which ones do not? Can’t they realize which regulations encourage gambling-related commerce and which ones do not?

As state after state holds legislative hearings to discuss the potential legalization of sports wagering, the lack of basic knowledge is getting worse not better. When you read about some of the outrageous tax proposals (grabs) for sports wagering, such as in Illinois where a 10 percent levy on winnings is being floated, it’s easy to see how out of touch many of these politicians continue to be.

I asked an attorney friend with considerable expertise in sport betting why not one state anticipating offering such betting, when and if the U.S. Supreme Court legalizes it, has copied Nevada’s regulatory framework that has been honed and fine tuned over many years?

He could not explain it.

The only real answer seems to be what I’ll call excessive legislative ego. That is, the desire to re-invent the wheel, as they say.

Now, we hear of new brain-scrambling examples of political arrogance in Illinois and Massachusetts.

In Chicago, mayoral candidate Garry McCarthy told a local radio station he supports locating a casino at O’Hare International Airport in order to help fix Chicago’s financial problems. McCarthy, who was released by Mayor Rahm Emanuel as police superintendent in late 2015, believes an airport casino would be a big money-earner for the city while cutting down on many of the societal problems that can accompany legalized gambling.

Well, not exactly.

He said, “The issue with a casino in the city, my understanding, was all of the problems it causes in the community. How about we put a casino in O’Hare Airport where now it’s for travelers coming through and it’s not going to affect the community, and anybody who goes there has to go through TSA? That’s going to eliminate the issue of the downside of not being able to control what happens, you know, whether it’s organized crime, prostitution, narcotics or whatever it is and, at the same time, that’s going to generate revenue.”

He continued, “How many people come through O’Hare and have layovers, and have to sit around for hours and hours and hours? If they’re sitting at a blackjack table, there’s going to be revenue generated.”

This absolutely nonsensical idea to isolate a casino at the airport behind security so the problems associated with it fly away and the gambling revenue remains shows a shortsightedness too typical of many political leaders.

There’s good and bad with alcohol and cigarette sales, but it seems the tax revenue generated makes these “vices” acceptable. To treat gambling differently, by creating a casino behind security at O’Hare is an “O’Hare-brained” idea, if there ever was one. McCarthy should understand you can’t have the orange without the peel.

No welshing, please

In Massachusetts, the Gaming Commission is conducting an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against former Wynn Resorts chief executive Steve Wynn. Wynn has sold his stake in the company, despite fervently denying the allegations. Wynn Resorts is currently building a $2.4 billion casino/resort in Everett to be called Wynn Boston Harbor. The commission now wants to determine if the company is suitable to run a casino in Massachusetts.

Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby remarked, “I have said repeatedly that for now we must proceed with the Everett project as planned and be thoughtfully mindful of the thousands of people whose jobs may be affected by this issue and of the long-term economic benefits envisioned by this project.”

He added, “But as a practical matter… Wynn Resorts proceeds with this project on an at-risk basis.”

Talk about political grandstanding. Wynn Resorts remains a more than suitable casino/resort developer despite the allegations against its founder. To threaten the company at this juncture is pointless and harmful.

Steve Wynn is no longer involved but his legacy – both the good and perhaps the bad portions of it, still remain. If the Wynn name comes down, the good citizens might rethink some of their idolization of a particular Massachusetts political family, as well.

Massachusetts made a deal with Wynn Resorts not Steve Wynn. To use gambling parlance, Massachusetts should not welsh on it.