Tuesday, October 25, 2011








Not A Sure Bet


On Monday, President Obama visited Las Vegas to tout his jobs program and to reinforce his image in a state he narrowly won in 2008. However, Repub officials, Democratic mayor Oscar Goodman, and business leaders were quick to criticize the President because he has not been a booster of the tourism industry of the city. According to The Associated Press

The feud began in 2009, when Obama admonished corporations using federal bailout money: “You can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer’s dime.” A year later, Obama warned families against gambling away college tuition: “You don’t blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you’re trying to save for college.”

The call for financial responsibility didn’t sit well with some Las Vegans, and Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Nevada all lashed back at the time. Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Obama’s most prominent ally in Congress and Nevada’s senior senator, told Obama to “lay off Las Vegas.”

With Obama campaigning for a second term, the president’s critics are eager to call the outcry to mind.

“Perception is reality,” said Republican Rep. Joe Heck, who represents southern Nevada. “After those statements were made, we had conventions call and pull out, so it did in fact cost Las Vegas business.”

The feud began in 2009, when Obama admonished corporations using federal bailout money: “You can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer’s dime.” A year later, Obama warned families against gambling away college tuition: “You don’t blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you’re trying to save for college.”

It's not surprising that city fathers (and mothers) would be sensitive to a president choosing not to be a cheerleader for the industry that has earned "Vegas" the moniker "Sin City." Although Senator Obama received tons of cash from the gambling industry and himself plays poker and blackjack, State Senator Obama was concerned about the impact of legalized gambling upon the citizens of his district. During the presidential campaign, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported

As a matter of principle, he repeatedly opposed expanding gambling in Illinois, saying it was bad for communities and not a good way to fund government.

As recently as 2003, Obama, then an Illinois state senator, said he believed the "moral and social cost of gambling" was potentially "devastating" and that using gaming as a source of revenue or for economic development was "irresponsible."

He didn't think Illinois legislators should accept political contributions from the gaming industry, and in 2004 and 2006 refused federal contributions from gaming companies.

Obviously, Barack Obama has not been immune from the lure of campaign cash, who even now is raising huge sums from Wall Street.even though Wall Street has not been quite as generous to him as it was during the 2008 campaign. With Nevada a swing state in presidential elections, it's questionable whether the President will be able to stick to his principles.

But he should. The Executive Editor of Florida Baptist Witness cited the work of Baylor University economics professor Earl Grinois, author of Gambling in America: Costs and Benefits, who in turn

cited a Canadian study that found that nearly half of revenue generated at casinos is from problem and pathological gamblers. And, contrary to claims of advocates, a significant percentage of gamblers—as high as 70 percent—are “convenience” gamblers residing within 35 miles of the facility, rather than tourist or destination gamblers.

“So you’re getting the money from locals and you’re getting it from the wrong locals and that’s just an inescapable fact at casino-level gambling,” he said.

Grinols presented a long list of crimes, pathologies and social problems in which Nevada is first or among the leaders in the nation, including first in suicide (double the national average), divorce, gambling addictions, child abuse deaths and per capita bankruptcy, to cite a few. He said crime associated with gambling is not explained merely by the fact that it draws large numbers of people.

His research compared crime at Las Vegas to that at high tourist destinations not associated with gambling—Orlando; Branson, Missouri; and the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota—to Las Vegas, a gambling tourist destination. Las Vegas’ crime rate is 1,040 percent higher than Branson and 15.7 times higher than Bloomington, Grinols reported, although both destinations draw far more visitors per resident than does Las Vegas. A similar pattern is found when comparing crime rates at large tourist destinations in the National Park System to Las Vegas.

It's not often that a politician will risk alienating the power brokers of a crucial state and Obama may bid a retreat, hasty or otherwise. But for now, for this issue, President Obama is practically a profile in courage.




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