Reasons the Alabama gambling bill stinks
- Posted by Heather Davis
- On February 22, 2021
- 0 Comments
The gambling question is a carousel that Alabama never seems to get off. Every few years, we wrestle a gaming proposal until we’re all sweaty and exhausted, but we never settle the thing. We just call it a draw, get back on the merry-go-round, and catch our breath until we’ve recovered enough to do it again.
Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has proposed a gambling bill that purports to get us off the carousel and give us a big sack of cash to boot. Pretty tempting, huh?
He’s even dangled the carrot of improved broadband infrastructure for the state to help us imagine how magical everything will be once several casinos open and start raking in and pumping out cash to meet all our needs.
You people know how badly I want the broadband problem fixed. I’ve been whining about that on a loop for a long time now. I’m even tired of hearing myself talk about it.
But warning sirens are blaring all around this bill, and wisdom demands we heed them.
For many Alabama Christians, the question of gambling is a moral one, and no amount of public good done with the proceeds could make up for leveraging the vulnerability of the poor to fill public coffers. For them, this argument is over before it starts. They’re a hard no.
For others, the analysis is more nuanced, and considers the mechanism proposed to decide whether this bill would be a net negative or a net positive. For this tribe of conservatives, there are potholes galore in SB-214.
Let the reader understand: this is not just a lottery bill. Marsh and Company have decided to go for broke here and plant casinos all over the place in our state, to boot. The suggested sites include certain facilities that already offer forms of legal gaming like the existing dog tracks. You know, the ones you’ve seen in the news from time to time for repeatedly stepping over the line and dipping their toes into arguably illegal forms of gambling.
So it essentially rewards entities that haven’t exactly been model citizens with a plum opportunity.
This bill sets the table for cronyism on a level this state has never before seen. And the cronyism isn’t even sheepishly hiding in a back room. It’s sitting on the front porch smiling and waving at us.
As a free-market conservative, the idea of the state picking winners and losers–in any context–makes me itch all over. With the Alabama Gaming Commission’s creation, Marsh’s bill creates a political power center of scary proportions.
And then there is the aesthetic and culture question. Full disclosure here: I’m not a casino kind of gal. It’s just not my scene. And it’s not really for moral reasons. I simply find the practice stupid and the setting, well, tacky.
I also hate buffets. Fire up those anti-elitist reader emails.
One of the bill’s proposed sites for a new Poarch Creek gaming facility is in DeKalb or Jackson counties. I know a little bit about that area, as a born and raised DeKalb County girl. What you need to know about DeKalb County is that you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a Baptist preacher in the head. Also, that place was dry as a bone until just a few years ago.
Casino-friendly, they are not. Now Jackson County has always been our faster cousin, so maybe they could find a place for it that locals would tolerate. But where a casino physically sits is not the only issue.
Can you imagine the flashy billboards and advertising saturation that will plague Alabama roadways if all the proposed facilities open up? It will embarrass Alexander Shunnarah.
So you can oppose this bill because you’re thumbs-down on all gaming for moral reasons. You can oppose it because it rewards certain counties with a tourism revenue golden ticket and leaves yours out in the cold. You can object to it because you don’t want people to visit our state and pick up a “Vegas with pine trees” vibe.
There’s no shortage of reasons to kill this bill. Just pick your favorite and vote no.
Dana Hall McCain writes about faith, politics, and culture for AL.com. You follow her on Twitter @dhmccain.