News and Observer
Time and again, as the agreement to allow live dealers at the casino of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians was formulated, that four-letter word kept coming up: jobs. And yes, a deal rendered by Gov. Beverly Perdue and the tribe – if it’s approved by the General Assembly – will create several hundred jobs as the casino’s offerings expand to draw more visitors who want Las Vegas-style gambling options.
And yes again, it will bring some millions of dollars to the state’s public education system, with gradually increasing percentages of the money from “table games” (starting at 4 percent, going to 8 percent) going directly, the governor promises, to schools.
But hold the cheers and keep the champagne on ice.
Table games would indeed bring more money to the Cherokee casino, more visitors to the western part of the state and boost collateral spending on area hotels and other businesses.
But there would be side effects. This expansion of gambling offerings would rev up, tremendously, the push by the Lumbee tribe of Eastern North Carolina to gain federal recognition and the right to establish casinos of its own. That could further expand gambling in North Carolina.
And all this is in addition to the state lottery that was the first state-sponsored venture into gambling, by another name. But gambling.
It is fair for North Carolinians to ask themselves if they want to risk the further change in the state’s culture that expanded gambling would bring.
Southern states along the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi River have swooned to the siren song of gambling as a solution to financial instability. What’s happened? Money has come, but in some cases those states have become known for their gambling opportunities more than anything else.
They’re no longer tourist destinations with gambling. They’re gambling destinations with a few sites here and there. Is this what North Carolina, the state with so much pride (and so much of a financial stake) in its incomparable beaches, mountains and historic sites really wants – to become a follower, to lose those things which distinguish it and always have from some neighboring states?
Do we want to be known as a state that will do anything for jobs?
Although part of the deal with the Cherokees includes the continuation of programs to combat gambling addictions, that is a ludicrous attempt at rationalization. It’s the same as setting up free rounds of drinks in a bar and having a sign on the washroom door that cautions against excessive alcohol use.
Families with addicted gamblers, or recovering addicts, in the household will suffer mightily. For a good time at the tables, some gamblers will lose everything, and so will their spouses and their children. What will that do to the moral and family fabric of this state?
And let’s talk about the benefits, specifically money for education. Sure, it will come in, just as lottery money does. But as financial crises arise, as they do from time to time, that money will become vulnerable to a raid by lawmakers who will argue that it is needed for more pressing things. Or, those who hold the purse strings in the General Assembly will use the gambling proceeds to substitute for regular appropriations, not as supplemental money to make schools better.
Before we sit down at this table, we need to know the game. And the odds are bad.
This editorial was first published by the News and Observer on December 1, 2011
The Christian Action League is posting the editorial (Dec. 7, 2011) with permission.