Governors vs. gambling

Is the tide at last starting to turn -- if even a little -- away from public acceptance of gambling operations? While it would be far too soon to believe that legalized gambling -- whether privately run casinos or state-sponsored lotteries -- still does not have powerful backing in many parts of the US, a few encouraging developments suggest that at least the public has a sense of limits about exactly what will and will not be tolerated regarding gaming.

The best news perhaps comes from Massachusetts where Gov. Edward King Has just spoken out unequivocally against casino gambling in the Bay State. The government has said that he is "obsolutely convinced" that casino gambling would bring about an increase of violence, corruption, and organized crime. Consequently he will veto any casino gambling legislation to come before him.

Governor King is to be commended for his forthright stand in the face of persistent efforts to build two casinos in Massachusetts.

What may constitute a "minitrend" here is that governor King's opposition to casinos follows by only a month or so the announced opposition of New York's Gov. Hugh Carey to any casino gambling in the Empire State.

New York and Massachusetts have also come out in roughly the same way in another key area regarding gaming -- video games. The Massachusetts State Lottery commission voted unanimously to kill its own propossed pilot project of video games -- i.e, electronic gambling machines that would give an instant "payout." Meanwhile, New York has scrapped plans to introduce video blackjackpoker games in that state.

Admittedly the New York and Massachusetts developments are still only minor occurrences given the dimension of legalized gambling in the US. But at the same time the developments should not be overlooked for what they may be telling us about public attitudes in general. Although both governors are DEmocrats in basically Democratic states (Governor King the far more conservative of the two) , the two men obviously would not have taken the stands they took without sensing broad backing for their positions. Neither would the two lottery agencies have backed down on video games without strong public oppostion.

There is no economic or moral justification whatsoever for state-sanctioned instant video games. Their mere presence would be a cynical and corrosive example for young people, whether the young people were allowed to play them or not.

So far as casinos are concerned, Atlantic City's unhappy experience should be lesson enough for other communities contemplating them. Last year Atlantic City casinos lost close to $4 million. Moreover, a major war among organized crime families appears to be underway in that city.

What community -- or state -- needs that?

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