Anti-casino rhetoric

This Patriot-Ledger editorial–from which I’ve excerpted a tiny slice–says a great deal about how public debates about casino gambling are structured. Why not use innuendo and guilt by association, if you can’t find numbers to back you up?

If BP had come here peddling an offshore oil well, the company would have been hooted out of town. Yet a business not so different from BP – that is, one in which gargantuan profits and toxic side effects are guaranteed and the consumer is nothing but a pawn – has finally suckered Massachusetts lawmakers into taking the plunge.

via JoANN FITZPATRICK: Slick gambling plan promises huge profits and toxic side effects to match – Quincy, MA – The Patriot Ledger.

It’s incredible to me that someone would argue with a straight face that “toxic side effects are guaranteed” with offshore oil drilling, like the Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting leak were somehow part of the plan. Granted, the capping and clean-up’s been a tragedy of errors, but I’m not entirely sure that this was intended. And tying casino gambling to current whipping-boy BP is just a lazy way of saying, “I don’t like gambling” without explaining exactly why you don’t like it.

My favorite part of that little excerpt, though, is the “gargantuan profits” line–as if running a profitable business were somehow in and of itself some sort of a public obscenity. And plenty of people in Las Vegas would argue with the idea that opening a casino is somehow a patent to unlimited wealth. Within the past few weeks, the crisis at Reno’s Siena has given the lie to that idea.

Basically, Fitzpatrick’s arguing that Massachusetts shouldn’t legalize casinos because they’ll be successful. There’s certainly an argument to be made in the opposite direction, that with declining national revenues new casinos won’t be able to generate sufficient state revenues to make them worth the effort. I’m not saying that’s necessarily true, but it’s a valid line of argument, as opposed to “I don’t like casinos so I’ll compare them to BP.”

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