Tell 'em Telly Sent Ya


New at Reason: Peter Bagge discusses Washington State's big gamble on casinos, and in his final words you'll find an ace that you can keep.


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  1. Yes, the only thnk missing inn the strip are hordes of elderly, although they might not be as large a percentage out west as they are in Atlantic City.

    I was in AC a few months ago and they were folks with their on oxygen tanks hooked up to their wheelchairs wating on line to give their money away.

    It’s like heaven’s waiting room!

  2. “maybe I’m an elitist or somethin’ . . . I don’t find destructive, compulsive behavior very attractive”

    Dude, I can actually relate to that. However, I honestly feel that when these people aren’t at the casino, they’re spending what money they have left at Kmart or Wal-Mart. I guess I am an elitist too!

    Also, many casinos give you “free” beverages, sometimes snacks, for your “patronage.”

  3. Great posts, Brad S. I agree with you on “what the F___ is the government doing in the business, and how can it be illegal for everyone else?” (my wording, there).

    Also, your posts about betting at the airport made me wonder if you used to watch Seinfeld. That was about the funniest I’ve ever seen, when Kramer’s betting problem surfaced, and he and this Texan guy were betting on which flight would arrive first. Kramer had to eventually throw in Newman’s son-of-Sam briefcase as a bet …

  4. Hey, Cmon now, CmonNow, they only give you drinks if you play the big-time, not the nickel one-armed-bandits, I can vouch for that. When were were in Lost Wages, I was showing my friend how you could push this button and a light on top of the machine would light, and they cutie in the miniskirt would bring you a beer.

    Well, unfortunately there was no such button/light on that machine, and some security dude thought we were taking the machine apart. He then told my friend that he couldn’t be 17 and be in there. We were force to leave. I was just glad we didn’t see Joe Peshy in there – I am not up for digging my own grave under the supervision of that foul-mouthed guinea fuck …

    Yes, I watch too many movies, but that’s better than a gambling problem.

  5. What a lot of you don’t realize is that legalizing casinos and gambling in general does not increase the tax base. This is a falsehood that has been most often spouted by potheads who make the argument that legalization will increase tax roles, and has now been adopted by gambling supporters…Don’t get me wrong, I support opening up the licensing process to anyone regardless of lineage.

    The reason why there is no increase in the tax roles is simple, yet missed by almost everyone. An increase in local tax roles is going to happen, but an increase in overall tax roles will not change. Why? Because there is no increase in economic efficiency, no increase in the general availability of goods or services (unless gambling is considered a service, which it isn’t). No product or service is provided at a faster rate, nor consumed at a higher rate. Just because we like to think that goods bought at Wal-Mart are better for the consumer over goods bought from the local junkie, the proper measure of efficiency is does it make the person better off? Is that person happy? And the only person who can answer that is the person smoking weed and crapping his pants rather than buying depends and pumping nickels into slot machines.

    This may be hard to follow, but without a net increase in productivity, there will not be a net increase in tax base, it will just shift.

  6. Richard, that is not hard to follow at all. How would it possibly increase the tax base? More money for schools, the ads say. Sure, even after you subtract the admin. costs, there is more money for schools from that source. But all the stone-faced one-armed bandit players are spending money that would otherwise buy good for them or their families. Not only that, but they really don’t look like they are having a good time. I don’t see it as positive as far as economics when the gov’t runs it.

    Only people like Telly Savalas (and the Rainman, possibly) are having a good time at the casinos. Be a playa, Bay-Bee!

    Oops, and I guess Joe Peshy and that one guy that plays a casino boss in damn near every casino movie (“Reindeer Games”, “Midnight Run” – an awesome movie, BTW, etc.) are having fun. Can anyone name him? Anyone, anyone, Ferris??

    Actually, I don’t know if cutting peoples’ fingers off and burying other people out back after they dig their own grave could be considered fun, especially with all the foul-language involved.
    Still better than the Feds running the place though.

  7. Richard – that’s a good point. The argument that casinos increase the local tax base has a very big flaw insofar as gambling basically steals from Peter to pay Paul. Unless a large number of gamblers come to the town as tourists. That’s the only way there is a net local tax gain from a casino. In a town like Las Vegas or Atlantic City, I might buy that argument. In a town like Vicksburg, Mississippi or Pullman, Washington, I’m not so sure.

  8. Hey folks, the more legal options consumers have, the more they will likely spend, at least to some degree. True, the overall increase won’t be nearly as much as what they spend on the newly legalized activity, but there’ll still likely be a net gain cause consumers will likely spend more on the newly legalized activity than the decrease in what they’re giving up. That’s one of the things freedom does.

  9. I was going to make a comment on the other thread about the masturbatory nature of gambling, but Bagge beat (heh) me to it. Bastard!

    It’s as common as muck in the vernacular, but this strip is the only place I’ve seen it written as “hunnert”.

  10. Richard, the tax base argument is based on local receipts. That’s why casinos are often looked to in revitalization strategies for depressed areas. Voluntary redistribution from wealthier communities to poorer ones.

    When people on the local level talk about tourism, they include folks from two towns over coming downtown for the evening.

  11. Fydor,

    I am voting yes on “33” simply because of the nauseating negative ads. Not really, but they are grating and very patronizing. I just get so irritated with the collectivist-groupthink that always kicks in when “gamblin'” is on the table, so to speak. You would think conservatives would be all for it be principally free market folk … oh I forgot, they are also social conservatives… kind of contradictory.


  12. I wasn’t clear about my intent. I am voting yes on 33, but not for the simplistic reason of my negative reaction to the attack ads.


  13. Nice strip.

    “Leave as soon as you’re ahead, and grab all the freebies you can on the way out the door.” I think that guy’s onto something.

  14. I watched riverboat casinos move into my home town of Vicksburg, MS. It took the gambling people two tries to get the vote past the people of the county to allow it. There, like in Washington, the local politicos sold it as “money for education” They also told the people that an influx of tourists would be good for local business. Now, the town is dying a slow death, as all the money those tourists spend stays at the casinos, and the education system is no better than it was 15 years ago when I was there.

    While I too believe that gambling should be legal, I still think that people should beware before they let casinos into their community. Little good will come of it.

  15. I like to sit around a kitchen table and fight over a couple hundred bucks for a few hours. I’ve got at least as much of a chance to come out ahead as every one of my friends and relatives. But I just don’t see the appeal of going to a casino, especially when I know that the people playing are, on balance, going to come out behind.

    It’s like sex with a girlfriend vs sex with a prostitute.

  16. I have seen my Maidu family (a tribe in No Cal with a casino in Oroville, Ca) benefit greatly from the casino they built. Housing has greatly improved, employment is up both in the tribe and the local community, crime is down, and more members are now going to college like none before. I don’t think local education has been improved from the taxes generated, however, the tribe did institute after school programs that build on their education which is probably the reason why more kids have moved on to advanced education.

    I live in Seattle, and as the strip suggests, I have seen both the Tulalips and the Muckleshoot reservations improve, at least asthetically. Like that one panel showed, more mainstream businesses have moved in adding more to employment and the tax base. Prior to this, all you would see is high unemployment, beat up trailers next to firework stands, and a lot of unproductive loitering. The Muckleshoots recently opened a brand new, multimillion dollar, state of the art amphlitheater that has displaced Neil Young’s favorite place to play, The Gorge.

    From my point of view, the local non-native american card rooms are the one’s that attract the riff raff. The “mini strip” in Tukwila seems to have the same cars parked in front of the card rooms around the clock, day after day.

  17. One thing that I’ve always found interesting about gambling (and any good Libertarian should find it interesting as well) is that state-sanctioned gambling (i.e. the state lottery) is perfectly acceptable. In fact, the state funds commercials on local television and radio stations reminding me that I should play every Wednesday and Friday. Meanwhile, the NCAA Tournament office pool that I participated in this past spring is technically illegal.

    More generally, why is gambling okay (even encouraged) in the public sector but not the private sector?

    Another issue, with both public and private sector gambling, is the issue of adverse selection – as a general rule, those who are most likely to lose money gambling tend to be those who can least afford to lose money gambling. The state has no problem creating an outlet for these people to lose their money, so long as the state is the beneficiary. All under the guise of “for the children”. Somewhat sickening.

  18. Here in Colorado there’s a referendum to allow slot machines at the dog tracks and (supposedly?) use the taxes on the proceeds to promoted Colorado tourism. I’m undecided cause on one hand, I have no interest in jailing or fining people stupid enough (IMHO) to throw money down slot machines. On the other, since slot machines would only be allowed in a few places and because the tourism industry would get preferential treatment from it, it kinda amounts to a protectionist boondogle.

    Any thoughts? (as if this crew needs any encouragement!!)

  19. I think Bagge did a good job with this one.

    I also agree that people need to understand that opening a casino will not be the answer to everyone’s prayers any more than state-run lottery systems are. It becomes too painfully easy for people to think that instant money is just a game away, when you have better chances of being hit twice by lightning. In fact, one could probably make more money wagering on who will get randomly searched at the airports than from any game played in the casinos. (Hey, that sounds like a great idea!)

    If there is one rule that all casinos operate under, it is this: one way or another, the house always wins.

  20. Brad S,

    Some may attribute that paradox to the evil State working things to its own benefit, but I see it as the result of fear of freedom. People fear the results of gambling being everywhere that an entrepeneur can put it, but they think state sponsored gambling is more under control and somehow cleaner.

  21. David2 – I think you’re onto something there. The government could offer some sort of lottery/insurance program whereby if you are chosen randomly to be searched at the airport, you win a prize! This could even be expanded so that onlookers, perhaps stranded at the airport due to a cancelled flight or missed connection, could wager on other passengers. “Little old lady with a walker…she’s DEFINITELY going to be searched. $1000 on the little old lady!” “Uh oh, 5-year-old girl with a teddy bear, she looks like Al Qaeda, they’re SURELY going to search her. $2000 on the little girl!”

    I think you’re onto something here!

  22. It’s off-topic, but I would just like to say how MUCH I love Peter Bagge. One of him is worth ten litigious psuedo-Marxist Ted Ralls.

    And I even LIKE Ted Rall’s longer works.

  23. Fyodor – there was talk of doing a referendum here in Ohio which would allow slots in horse racing tracks. Not going to happen this year though, if I heard right.

    According to the Ohio Secretary of State, he claimed that this is actually a stealth plan to get casinos into a given state: if they allow slots at race tracks, they have to allow slots pretty much anywhere. (Per some federal law I don’t remember at the moment). So you would have casinos opening up but they just couldn’t do the “table” games. They don’t want to do those anyway because fogies flushing their social security checks down the slots is where the big money is anyway.

    Anyway, the casino industry tries about every 5 years to get casinos here and they haven’t succeded yet. I guess if math-challenged americans want to gamble that’s ok but I don’t want to live down the street from a casino myself.

  24. Won’t the horses run into the slot machines?

  25. Dude, put an average casino next to a Wal-Mart and the only thing different is the sign out front. Both are monstrous buildings, both have lots of cars coming in going all day and late into the night, both create low wage employment as well as a tax base, and both either please many people or piss off many people. Local card rooms and bars feel threatened by the casino and local “mom and pop” retail businesses feel threatened by Wal-Mart.

    So if you live near a Wal-Mart, why not a casino?

  26. Come On, Now – the difference is that when a little old lady takes her social security check into a casino, she leaves empty-handed. When she takes her social security check into Wal-Mart, she at least comes out with some Depends.

  27. Brad, its her choice in that area. DO we not advocate consumer choice? Anyway, I am talking about why dude wouldn’t want to live near a casino. What is it about casinos that make them undesirable to live by as oppossed to Costco or Wal-Mart?

  28. Page 4 illustrates it nicely for me.

    I’ve only been in a casino twice in my life. First time – don’t remember. Second time – it was a stingingly new, sterile casino, filled with a ocean of human debris. Scariest people I’ve ever seen. Scarier than the people I met when I was doing 3 days for a DUI about 6 years ago.

    maybe I’m an elitist or somethin’ . . . I don’t find destructive, compulsive behavior very attractive

    At least Wal-Mart, you get your 12-pack, or your Jumbo Cheetos, or something in exchange for your troubles.

    Joe – they jump over the slot machines.

  29. i went to las vegas this spring – it’s easily the weirdest place on earth. i’d never gambled before, lotto or otherwise, and i won about 500 bucks in maybe 30 minutes of slots. paid for me n’ the wife-to-be’s vacation, with plenty of fat tuesday booze slurpees to go around. plus we got to see penn n’ teller.

    but the vulture crowd of octagenarians and women who have become nothing more than a finger to push a button and a fist curled around a neverending misty do make me wonder exactly what the fuck is wrong with the rest of the united states. i was very happy to get back to brooklyn (though i wonder what atlantic city is like…)

  30. Regarding the “tax base” argument for casinos…

    In Massachusetts, the problem is that the gambling public’s money is currently being spent in the Connecticut casinos. On any given weekend, about half the cars in the parking lot have MA plates on them. While I agree that the introduction of gambling into a location previously insulated from gambling won’t increase the local tax base (absent an influx of tourists), the question of legalization in MA is now really a question of whether or not it’s desireable to have all that gaming money flowing from MA to CT.

  31. I’d be happy to answer anybody’s questions on these topics.

  32. EMAIL:

    DATE: 12/10/2003 09:47:44
    A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.

  33. EMAIL:
    DATE: 12/21/2003 12:51:49
    There is no benefit in the gifts of a bad man.

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