The Gambling Connection:
Willie Brown, Edward DeBartolo Jr., and the covert drive to bring legalized gambling to San Francisco
* The Influence of Legalized Gambling on California Government
More more information, see the cast of characters.
Also, see Gamblers Unanimous, a report by Common Cause on the sharply rising tide of gambling money in U.S. politics.
The Influence of Legalized Gambling on California Governmentfrom Mother Jones:
The Golden State has Indian casinos, lavish card clubs, lotteries, racetrack betting -- and a population of 32 million, making the state a jackpot for gaming companies. Gambling interests from all over the country have dumped almost $14 million into state politics in the past five years, effectively quashing any efforts to enact state regulation.
California now has the sixth-highest amount of wagering in the country.
Gambling measures haven't made it to the ballot since 1984, when Proposition 37 legalized the state lottery. But casino developers may be making some headway in Palm Springs: In 1995, developer Mark Bragg, a former adviser to Ronald Reagan, and the ever-present Eddie DeBartolo Jr. teamed up to pass a measure which approved card clubs at three sites: two controlled by Bragg, and the third at DeBartolo's Desert Fashion Plaza mall. Bragg subsequently tried to gather enough signatures to place an initiative on the November 1996 ballot that would have legalized slot machines at -- you guessed it -- the same three locations.
Even more interesting, just this past Wednesday, Secretary of State Bill Jones (who received $6,150 from gambling industry donors, 1992-1996) gave the California Gaming Control Committee the go-ahead to begin circulating a new petition. This measure would amend the constitution to permit California voters to approve casino-style gambling (i.e. slots). And, coincidentally enough, it would change statutes in -- where else? -- Palm Springs to authorize slot machines without local voter approval.
Attorney General Dan Lungren has received $12,950 in reported contributions from gambling industry donors, 1992-1996.
Willie Brown, Legalized Gambling's Man in CaliforniaWhen he was the Speaker of the California Assembly, now San Francisco mayor Willie Brown received $417,534.00 in declared payments from gambling industry donors between 3/26/92 and 12/12/95.
For an itemized listing of gambling industry payments to Brown, go to the search engine, and enter "Brown, W." and "Democrat."
The Nationwide Campaign to Bring Legalized Gambling to the U.S.from Mother Jones
Over the last five years, gambling has quietly become one of the nation's favorite forms of entertainment, generating more revenue than movies, spectator sports, theme parks, cruise ships, and recorded music combined. Last year, Americans sank more than $550 billion in legal wagers into casinos, racetracks, lotteries, and other gambling operations.
Gambling money going to federal elections is only a small part of the story. Gambling is primarily regulated by the individual states (rather than the federal government) and that is where the industry has handed out the bulk of its influence money. A Mother Jones investigation has found that over the past five years the gambling industry has spent more than $100 million in political contributions and lobbying fees to influence state governments.
But what is the easy availability of gambling doing to us? One macroeconomic problem is the industry's voracious appetite for cash; it's a black hole that eats money without returning a socially useful product to the community. Take Joliet, Illinois, home to riverboat gambling since 1992. Unlike Las Vegas, where the vast majority of the gambling take comes from out-of-staters, in Joliet, 82 percent comes from the locals -- who can then no longer spend that money in area stores buying clothes or furniture or groceries.
According to Rachel Volberg, president of Gemini Research, a Pennsylvania firm that studies compulsive gambling, having a casino nearby has been shown in at least one state to increase the number of people with compulsive gambling problems from about 1 percent of the general population to 5 percent.
The industry's need for big losers contributes to personal bankruptcies, broken marriages, and even suicides. And then there is the crime -- burglary, extortion, loan-sharking, prostitution, drugs -- that persistently accompanies legalized gambling. John Kindt, a professor of commerce and legal policy at the University of Illinois, argues that for every $1 in tax revenue that gambling raises, it creates $3 in costs to handle such scourges as economic disruption, compulsive gambling, and crime.
This article continues on to identify Donald Trump and Edward BeBartolo as two of the leading proponents of legalized gambling in the U.S. today.
Commentary: The proposed new 49er stadium/mall/entertainment center only makes financial sense if the "entertainment" is slot machines. DeBartolo's been down this road before (placing slot machines in a development originally advertised as something else) in other states and he is setting up San Francisco, with the help of gambling's best friend in California Willie Brown, for the same fate.
One of the most astonishing things about the "Yes" campaign for the $100,000,000 grant to DeBartolo is that neither his enormous gambling holdings nor his obvious ambitions to extend legalized gambling into new frontiers was ever mentioned by the local press.
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