The casino cocaine collapse
Expanded from the 8-9-2001 Reno News & Review alternative weekly
Gambling industry dominance of this year's dual legislative sessions reduced Nevada to the level of a Confederate-era southern plantation. What little tribute remained unwrested from lawmaker or governor, the casinos extracted from the state supreme court. The industry's control of our lives remains complete.
Will it take a civil war or slave revolt to break their stranglehold?
This empire will collapse under the weight of its own greed. Not all at once. It will erode over time and cyberspace, a process already begun right here in River City.
Politicians love gambling as voluntary taxation of someone else's constituents. However, once casinos mostly pirate the pockets of local residents, new bans will result.
As industry expert I. Nelson Rose says, "when gambling is everywhere, it will be nowhere."
Organized gambling lusts to take its predations worldwide via the Internet. This year, Nevada became the first state to legalize it.
Some Nevada casinos already offer non-money or prize-only games on experimental websites. MGM/Mirage recently applied for a web license on the Isle of Man off the coast of England.
Last week, Nevada Gaming Commission chair and attorney general candidate Brian Sandoval said "if we were to decide to regulate interactive gambling, we'd only be able to take bets from international and Nevada-based gamblers. We have to respect the sovereignty of the other 49 states."
Oh? What about the guy who bets from a home computer directly to a satellite? No wires. No crossing state lines.
Nevada's overlords not only want to control web wagering, they want the Silver State to remain the only place allowing legal sports betting. They are currently carpet-bombing congress with cash to keep themselves too legit to quit.
Nevada is where the mob lays off its risk, hedges its bets. Nevada sports books grease the wheels of illegal betting all over the globe, as two-time Pulitzer Prize winners Donald Barlett and James Steele pointed out in their Time Magazine expose awhile back.
By getting so greedy, the Nevada gambling-industrial complex brings the sunset onto itself. The proliferation of Internet wagering will hasten a serious erosion of support. More and more people will revolt over family ruination via the computer in the bedroom.
Bans will begin with no legislation at all, just increasing societal pressure. That's what happened a hundred years ago with another addiction.
"As cocaine's casualties increased in number and range, individuals were likely to know of someone who had experienced its bad effects," Yale medical historian David F. Musto wrote in 1986.
Usage peaked at the turn of the last century. Coca-Cola replaced cocaine with caffeine in 1903. The first federal ban came three years later.
Gambling will also be replaced.
"Reno is changing from a gambling town to a town with gambling," a longtime local attorney recently observed. Hotels, gambling and recreation now constitute only about 18 percent of Washoe County jobs. This area thus stands well-prepared to weather any future prohibition or Nevada-financed California competition.
When gambling is everywhere, it will be nowhere.
For once, we'll be ready.
Be well. Raise hell.
© Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 32-year Nevadan, a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org/ Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988 .
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