Jan 232012

“My idea of a good conversation is to find someone who will listen to me.” I’m not sure of the provenance. I’ve seen it attributed to George Bernard Shaw, but it also sounds like Mark Twain. If you know, help me out.

The quote gives me an excuse to say that my idea of a good op-ed column is one that aligns perfectly with my political views. Today is my day. Paul Davies,  journalist and fellow of the Institute for American Values, which previously had escaped my attention, inveighs on the op-ed page of the New York Times against gambling. Specifically, he targets New York Gov.  Andrew M. Cuomo’s bet that the Empire State can bail itself out of its financial problems by legalizing commercial casinos.

Here is some of what Davies wrote:

… casinos are nothing more than a regressive tax that extracts wealth from the very citizens who can least afford it. … studies show that where casinos are established there is often an increase in crime, bankruptcy, divorce and suicide. A study last year by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County found that one in every 30 state residents had a gambling problem. Those most at risk for developing gambling addictions are single men between the ages of 18 and 29, either African-American or Latino, with less education and income than the overall population.

Right on, Mr. Davies. You made my day. I’ve long been perturbed  by the State of Washington’s relentless promotion of its numbers racket, the lottery. I know all of the familiar arguments for and against. I’m embarrassed that my supposedly progressive state promotes the idea that you can get rich with a stroke of luck. Washington’s attorney general would shut down any private business that offered odds as poor as the state’s lottery. It is indeed a tax on the poor and the ignorant, on those who are bad at math.

A little over a year ago, returning from a snow-shoeing outing at Snoqualmie Pass, I stopped for my first look at the Snoqualmie Tribe’s casino about 30 miles east of downtown Seattle. The place is gorgeous. To quote from web site, “the 170,000-square-foot casino features eight restaurants, lounges and bars, a dazzling 51,000 square-foot gaming floor and a world-class 11,000 square-foot ballroom.” There are more than 2,000 parking places, including 400 for free valet parking.

My wife and daughter and I made a circuit of the gaming space, interrupted by a stop at one of the informal eating places. We visited in daylight, so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that I didn’t spot glamour couples jumping for joy at the gaming tables, a staple the genre’s TV advertising. The decor was great, the food decent, the view awesome. But when I observed the customers, I saw no joy at all.

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