Ballot Measure 1 Opponent : Plan for gaming commission doesn't add up right

Posted: Friday, August 22, 2008

I'm no war history buff, but tactical strategies used in the past intrigue me. During the Trojan War, the Greeks couldn't muster up what was needed to get into Troy so they built a large wooden horse with a hollowed out belly for soldiers to hide in. The Trojans marveled at the creation and ushered it into their city. That night, when people were asleep or in a drunken stupor, the Greek warriors came out from inside the horse and slaughtered the Trojans.

Mark Twain has said that while history doesn't necessarily repeat itself, it rhymes.

Alaskans go to the polls soon to cast their vote on Ballot Measure 1, an effort to create the Alaska Gaming Commission that will indisputably have the ability to expand gambling in our state.

Here's why the Trojan Horse analogy exists.

Those pushing this measure have tried to expand gambling in Alaska legislatively and they've failed each time. This effort, they insist, is simply about enhanced regulation of current charitable gaming activities.

They state that Ballot Measure 1 will "only create a Gaming Commission" and that the "initiative, in itself, would NOT increase gambling in Alaska." Sounds a bit defensive doesn't it? If that truly is the case, why does Ballot Measure 1 say that "The Alaska Gaming Commission is established for the purposes of generating revenue for the state" and that the commission will have the ability to "authorize gaming activities."?

They claim that the "will of the people, not the Legislature, would decide what gaming activities would or would not be authorized." Really? Three members of the seven-person commission will "constitute a quorum for the transaction of business." And what is their business? Having "the authority to allow games of chance, such as lotteries and casino games, in the future." How do three people represent the "will of the people"?

What about the revenue they assert will be generated by additional gambling? That too, is a ruse. A former Nevada governor has said that, "For years, our economy has depended almost exclusively on tourism and gaming [gambling], rather than by exporting goods and services. Implicit in this tax strategy was a belief that the revenues from gaming and tourism could keep pace with our growing and diverse population. Unfortunately, this strategy has failed. ... My fellow Nevadans, the lesson from the last 20 years is clear; our revenue system is broken because it has relied on regressive and unstable taxes [from gambling]."

While some Alaskans may consider gambling to be a harmless pastime, many underestimate the costs in dollars and human suffering associated with it.

Studies show that 2.5 million Americans are pathological gamblers, and another 3 million are problem gamblers with higher rates of suicide, depression, mania, alcohol and drug abuse, and arrest rates. According to the American Insurance Institute, gambling is the main cause of white collar crime, and is the third leading cause of individual bankruptcy in America. Is this the industry that promoters of Ballot Measure 1 say would create a "new, stable and consistent entertainment industry" in Alaska?

Why not just create the Alaska Prostitution Commission? That would certainly generate revenue, but at what cost? Someone once said that "It is good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it's good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure you haven't lost the things money can't buy."

Gambling entices people with unrealistic hopes of escape from poverty through instant riches and it undermines the work ethic. It's based on the premise of something for nothing, a concept that sanctions idleness rather than industriousness.

Obviously, not all who gamble are addicts, but the overall economic and social costs are shared by everyone. Alaskans should ultimately have the final say as to whether our government should be partially funded by gambling. Voting "No" on Ballot Measure 1 keeps Alaskans in charge of that decision.

Supporters of Ballot Measure 1 have presented a house of cards. Alaskans need to call their bluff by voting "No" on August 26th.

Jim Minnery is the president of the Alaska Family Council.

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