Since I began writing this blog in April, 2009, I have benefited greatly from the efforts of Diane Berlin to keep those of us who are deeply concerned about the negative impacts of casino gambling on this country informed.
Diane Berlin headed a coalition of anti-casino activists that fought long and hard to keep casinos out of Pennsylvania. As Diane Berlin stated in June, 2006, during a rally to repeal the unconstitutional casino licensing law that allowed the expansion of gambling in the state, many of the deals that are being made to bring casinos into our communities are undemocratic. They are being done without community input.
Diane and her group did not succeed in keeping casinos out of Philadelphia.They simply didn’t have the financial means and a strong and informed community to fight against their local and state elected officials, powerful lobbyists, and greedy billionaire entrepreneurs who made their case (and won) that casino gambling would be good for the City of Philadelphia, the State of Pennsylvania and the U.S. of A.
Diane Berlin continues to advocate against gambling by, among other things, regularly compiling articles and essays about gambling which she sends out to her e-mail lists. Two recent articles caught my attention. They have to do with race, politics, casinos, and African Americans. One was written by William Reed for the Memphis, Tennessee, based Tri-State Defender, which promotes itself as “one of the longest, continuously-published African American papers in the United States.
Titled “Is Gambling an OK Tool for Making Economic Development ‘luck’?”, William Reed states in his opening paragraph that “African Americans have little impact on gaming except as employees.”
He goes on to cite statistics on the gambling industry’s estimated revenues for 2011: it’s more than $92.27 billion. However, what he fails to deal with are the social and economic costs of gambling on African American and other vulnerable communities.
Instead he holds up the late Don Barden as the only African American entrepreneur who made it big in gambling. His point is that this is an industry that has closed its doors tight against African Americans (unless you are among the industry’s millions of losers) and that we need to see this as a viable opportunity for economic growth.
What William Reed failed to mention is that Don Barden was a compulsive gambler who lost millions of dollars and was deeply in debt, which is why he lost his license to build a casino in Philadelphia. Also, one of Barden’s casinos, the Majestic Star riverboat casino in Gary, Indiana, is nothing to boast about. It is nasty and stinky and contributes absolutely nothing to the economic growth of its host city, Gary, Indiana.
In his closing statement, William Reed writes, “African American political, civic and church leaders have to admit that gambling can be a powerful economic development tool.” As an African American woman who has struggled with an addiction to slot machine addictions, I want to say loudly and clearly, “NO THEY DON’T.”
Because the African American community is struggling mightily to retain whatever foot hold we have on the economic ladder, if anything, our leaders and legislators, and especially our church leaders need to say, as Diane Berlin and other anti-gambling activists throughout the country have said over and over again, “ENOUGH, ALREADY!”
The other article that Diane Berlin sent has to do with some political maneuverings by Alabama State Senators that was revealed during an Alabama trial on gambling corruption. It shows that for the GOP defendants in the trial, the state’s black voters are nothing but pawns in a vicious money-grubbing game. According to the prosecutors, an investigation into the dealings of certain unnamed Republican state senators caught them on tape explaining why they were trying to keep a gambling bill off the ballots (Click here for the complete article.)
“In the tape, the GOP senators talk about how they need to defeat gambling legislation because it will go on the November 2010 ballot if they let it pass the Legislature. They said having the issue on the ballot would bring out more black voters, which would hurt Republican candidates’ chances of getting elected.”
“Every black in this state will be bused to the polls,” one senator said.
“They are going to be bused on HUD-financed buses,” another replied.
“That’s right. That’s right,” a third senator said.
“It’s pretty hateful stuff, isn’t it?” the prosecutor asked casino developer Ronnie Gilley, who was on the witness stand.
“It’s nauseating,” Gilley replied.
Day did not identify who made each comment, but he said senators in the meeting were Beason, Ben Brooks, Larry Dixon, Jabo Waggoner, Rusty Glover and Paul Sanford.”
The message in this article is clear. These senators don’t want anything on the ballot that just might get black people out to vote. This is the kind of stuff the public needs to know. Especially for African Americans, since casinos are being built in or near urban areas, it’s important that we be informed about how they are impacting our communities.
Diane Berlin is doing her best, but we need more people to intervene in public discourse about the pros and cons of the continuing expansion of gambling in this country.
Sandra Adell, Author, CONFESSIONS OF A SLOT MACHINE QUEEN: A MEMOIR.