On December 4, 2009 the board of the Association of Washington Cities, AWC, will adopt the final package for its 2010 legislative agenda. Lakewood leadership continues to lobby the AWC to support the issue of local control over gambling. But efforts to that end in the legislature have always failed in the past. For a number of good reasons.
In January, 2007, lobbyists for the AWC and the minicasinos combined efforts, unsuccessfully, to win state support for a bill that effectively would cut a deal with jurisdictions to stop banning casinos altogether and instead create gambling-zones. A similar bill, HB 2162, failed to move out of committee just this last 2009 session.
But Lakewood leadership persists in its efforts to partner with the gambling industry under the guise of ‘control’.
This previous month the AWC held its regional meeting in Tacoma. In attendance, along with about 35 others representing most of the cities in Pierce County, were Mayor Doug Richardson, Councilmember Walter Neary, City Manager Andrew Neiditz, and Communications Director Jeff Brewster. In his City Manager’s report of October 11, Neiditz stated, “It is anticipated that AWC will continue to support the issue of local control over gambling in the upcoming legislative session.”
However, in these continued rebuffs of such efforts by state lawmakers, precedent has established legislators as representative of the people – not lobbyists, not the AWC, and certainly not casino owners – and such precedent should prevail again.
Zoning implicitly has the effect of endorsing gambling by legitimizing it as a commercial activity similar to general retail or light industry. We remind all of the legislature’s own statement in the enabling statute that authorizes the local jurisdictions to ban commercial gambling activities. That legislation recognizes that commercial gambling is a social risk given the known linkages to organized crime and public corruption. Further, commercial gambling carries grave risks to individuals and their families due to its addictive nature. Any legislation which “lowers the bar” to facilitate gambling is a threat to people, families, jobs and communities. Zoning would “lower the bar” because it would give only the appearance of effective control while opening the door to more commercial gambling institutions within every community (self described by their own advertising as, “non-destination” casinos). This is bad policy and a step backward for cities and towns throughout Washington.
The zoning measure is a parallel effort by commercial gambling to expand revenue generating options. An additional measure is the effort to allow slot-machines. This effort was unsuccessful in 2004 with I-892. Commercial gambling representatives have stated more recently their intent to try again. Given the Gambling Commission recent approval of increased wager limits, more players per table, and Baccarat (and with the precursors of slots having been introduced), gambling ‘control’ bills are, in reality, a part of the strategy to significantly increase commercial gambling throughout the state.
The very fact that casinos back such bills raises the question as to whether this is a city-initiated ‘control’ issue, or rather an attempt by casinos to wrest control of gambling from the city.
There is no “up-side” to commercial gambling. Gambling has “a poor record as an economic multiplier” (Jan. 2007, Wall Street Journal) so in a worsening economy shall we revitalize neighborhoods by further exacerbating our city’s dependence upon an industry shown to be “a net economic and social minus”?
Can we say with integrity that such attempts by Lakewood upholds “the interests of preserving the public health, safety and welfare of the people as established by the Washington State Constitution” when the known and quantifiable economic, social, and cultural deleterious effects of convenience casinos prove just the opposite?
Should the Washington State Legislature be bowing to the pressure of, and worse partnering with, an industry that threatened, in the words of Lakewood’s Mayor Emeritus Lt. Gen. (ret.) William H. Harrison, “if we did not go along with this (allowing gambling to exist) we were going to be sued and break the city”? Commercial gambling is not our friend. Also, it is not a legitimate commercial activity. Our elected representatives need to say this strongly. We must not allow commercial gambling to have any more concessions.
David Anderson, Chairman
SaveLakewood Steering Committee
c/o 14506 Portland Ave. SW
Lakewood, WA 98498