Tossing A Coin on Gambling Vote


Photo from Wikicommons, uploaded by Toni Lozano from Don_Gato flickr photos.

I think Todd Dorman summed up my attitude about the Tuesday gambling election fairly well in his column in The Gazette this morning.

Except, I’m not sure I come down on the “yes” side. If I do vote “no,” however, it won’t put me in much of a funk should Linn County voters approve a casino. There is no guarantee one will be forthcoming even with a “yes” vote, and I don’t see it destroying the fabric of the universe as we know it if it is built.

I don’t see the need for a local casino, and I’m pretty sure I’ll never visit it if it’s open. If I want to toss money away, I’ll go see a Quinton Tarantino movie or add more layers of wildflower seeds to the compost of wildflower seeds I have strewn in the woods behind my house. I don’t see any reason to gamble my cash away.

So, I have no personal stake in the vote. But, in a larger social sense, would a casino be a good thing?

Well, it would provide some employment, although not in an industry that creates any goods or that is known for its lavishly generous salaries. It would provide low-paying, sometimes exploitive jobs. Say what you will about those terrible “Jumer’s” commercials, but those Midwestern “ladies” decked out in feathers ala Las Vegas dancers look neither comfortable nor particularly well respected.

Not that a CR casino would necessarily feature showgirls. But I’m not sure blackjack dealer ranks a lot higher on the scale of life vocations.

On the other hand, people whose education doesn’t qualify them to be software engineers need something to do, as do all those sociology majors—and a job is a job. And just because I don’t understand or engage in gambling doesn’t give me much motivation to deprive others of that thrill.

While it’s true that there are  social costs to gambling, we’re talking about shuffling those costs around, not eliminating them. True, we don’t have the casino “here,” but if it’s “there” why can’t it be here? And gambling is like drinking–not that harmful to most people who engage in it, even if it’s addictive for a few. I’m not campaigning to make beer illegal because it’s not safe for alcoholics.

Yet …

I’ve noticed among my “Facebook” friends that those who declared themselves as “no” votes are people I tend to respect. And I hesitate to vote “yes” knowing that “the deal” that is on the table seems like a particularly Cedar Rapids sort of plan—a slightly shady, inside job.

I could easily vote “no.” I don’t really want a casino in Cedar Rapids.

On the other, or third or fourth hand, the “water park” idea doesn’t sway me one way or another—if it makes economic sense, someone else could build it and there is no guarantee of it anyway. And it would feel odd to vote no so that some outside investor, flush with gambling cash, can build us a different kind of tourist trap.

In the end, Todd and I may disagree. My instinct is to vote “no,” although I concede my instinct isn’t speaking with much conviction and I may need a quarter to turn up “heads” to confirm my hunch.

Todd comes down “yes,” primarily, I think, because he can’t find a reason to say “no.” I respect that. But I might vote “no” using almost exactly the same rationale. If you haven’t sold the idea to me, why should I favor it?

Finally, both sides in this campaign have done a terrible job. The “yes” campaign started with insulting, provocatively bad ads, saying, in effect, you’re stupid if you vote no. And the “meat lady” was not an effective spokesperson. The later ads, which feature the main investor, were actually more effective, but I still have a bad taste form the earlier ones.

And the “no” campaign? Sure, there are local people who oppose gambling for saintly reasons, but the campaign seems to have been co-opted by other casinos trying to keep their share of the sucker market. (Just to thumb my nose at them is the biggest reason I’m still toying with a “yes” vote.)

I may vote no. I’m leaning that way, but I still might vote yes. Then again, I may stay home on Tuesday and drink beer and say the heck it.



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3 responses to “Tossing A Coin on Gambling Vote

  1. Cate Sheller

    Joe, you’ve summed up my feelings exactly. I don’t like either side on this one, and don’t feel particularly motivated to vote either way. So I’m left with three choices: vote no because there isn’t much reason to say yes, vote yes because there isn’t much reason to say no, or don’t vote. And I don’t like any of the above! Like you, I find that most people I respect who’ve voiced an opinion are “nos,” but I like to think I can make up my own mind. On this one, though, so far I haven’t been able to.

  2. Carolyn Sternowski

    Reasons to vote no

    1. The jobs in a casino are likely lower paying requiring “help” from gov in the sense of free school lunches for employees chidlren and possibly food stamps for the family. This comes from our tax dollars because the employer does not pas pay a living wage.
    2. Other jobs would be temp jobs (out of the advertized 600) that are construction jobs. They end when the casino is built

  3. Carolyn Sternowski

    3. Casinos notoriously want to keep “their” customers at the casino spending money. They do not want them wandering off to restaurants or other venues near by. So they eventually add their own restaurant and hotel that undercut local businesses.
    4. Owners of casinos are less likely to recycle the money they profit locally. They are wealthy landlords who take the money out of the local economy.
    5. There are already 6 casinos in short driviing distance. How many casinos can Eastern Iowa support?
    6. Cultures/societies that “bet” their economic security on gambling often do not succeed. check the economic history books.

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