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Having just elected a governor who unashamedly ran on a platform of expanding gambling in the state of Kentucky, please allow me to make the following predictions:
1) Within 12 months of the expansion of gambling in the state, whether it be a floating casino docked on the Ohio River, poker machines at truck stops, or expanded off-track betting facilities, the chapters of Gamblers Anonymous will increase significantly.
2) Within six months of expanded gambling in the state, police sub-stations will begin to appear close to all major hubs of increased gambling.
3) Within three months of a major casino coming into the state, child services and family agencies will have their workloads taxed to the breaking limit due to children being left unattended while the adults gamble; the case load of dead-beat dads who fail to pay child support will double; and the courts will be flooded with cases in which the family is torn apart.
4) The presence of organized crime, whether through money laundering, drug sales (and thus, abuse) or prostitution will be felt within the state.
5) The state police will be forced to increase in size to handle the number of people literally walking home, having lost their cars in deals gone bad.
6) The gambling (gaming) establishments will proudly advertise the "house take." That is the average earnings for the house that is "won" from every patron who steps on board the boat.
7) The gambling industry will boast of how many millions of dollars they have pumped into the state economy to be used for education. That is a good thing, you say. Please don't be duped. If Kentucky follows the lead of most states, the state budget for education will decrease by the same number of dollars gained from gambling. In other words, education will see little, if any, increase.
How can one make such bold and brash predictions? By having experienced each of the above scenarios while living in Shreveport, La. in the mid 1990s when gambling became the "salvation" of a state whose economy drove it to a blind deal with the devil.
The lies from the gambling industry will come. Shreveport was told by Harrah's (the first of five boats to dock within a half mile of each other) that its form of gaming would come in the form of dinner cruises on the Red River, which separates Shreveport from Bossier City. Interestingly, the Red River has two bridges crossing it on the north and south of the city. The Riverboat docked between the two bridges before having the smokestacks installed, as they would not allow the boat to pass under the bridges that crossed the river. The bridges were less than two miles apart. Not ideal for a dinner cruise.
Upon "discovery" that the boat could not sail, the company stated that they would have "phantom cruises," drawing up the gangplank with a set number of passengers for a period of 2-4 hours, after which the patrons would disembark for the next load of patrons ready for a "cruise." It NEVER happened. From the opening day, the establishment was open 24 hours a day.
The Shreveport newspaper reported almost weekly of children left in their cars and told to wait there while mommy and daddy spent a couple hours on the boat. Often children were left for 8 hours or more in the parking garage.
Gamblers Anonymous, a wonderful organization committed to helping people kick the demeaning habit of gambling, jumped from one to five chapters almost overnight.
Waskom, Texas (just across the Louisiana line and less than a 10-minute drive from the casinos) set up a police sub-station to assist people walking back to Dallas.
Drive-by shootings were the daily norm in Shreveport.
The average "house take" of Harrah's Casino within the first year was $75 per patron. This was one of the top 10 in the United States. One other casino in the Shreveport/Bossier area was also in the top 10. The casinos reported this as a positive.
The management of the casinos was often pictured in the paper shaking the hand of and giving a huge check to the governor or the mayor, saying how proud they were to be helping the people of Louisiana. The state still boasts 44th in education in the United States and its road system is still one of the worst in the south.
Kentucky will indeed see revenue from the gambling industry. They will boast of the good they are doing and the economy they are helping. They will report the number of jobs they have created; they will have their pictures made with every politician willing to stand in their spotlight and speak of the programs they have helped. Their Las Vegas-style lights and buildings will indeed be impressive.
But will they report the number homes broken? The wages garnished? The dads jailed? The children abandoned and left hungry? The paychecks spent on gambling rather than food?
Yes, Kentucky has many people of means who could board a boat or enter a land-based casino, drop several hundred dollars and not miss it, and call it an entertaining evening. The vast majority, however, can ill afford to give up hard earned money for the sake of a chance to strike it rich. And the family will suffer.
My prediction stands. I encourage you to cut this out of your newspaper and post it on your refrigerator. I believe that when expanded gambling comes to our state, many, if not all, of these scenarios will come to pass before the paper has time to yellow from age.
My only hope for this prophesy is that I am shown to be a false prophet.
David E. Johnson