By David Anderson
It’s called addiction.
Lakewood revenue from gambling taxes has declined nearly every year for the last six years according to the annual report released to the City Council (click here, then again on “Council Agenda December 16, 2013” and scroll to page 008.)
The local numbers reflect a state-wide trend in which the amount of cash changing hands in non-tribal casinos “remains flat” at best, “shrinking” at worst, the latter placing off-reservation cardrooms in “survival” mode according to Dolores Chiechi, executive director of the Recreational Gaming Association (RGA) which represents conveniently-located casinos in partner-for-predatory-profit cities like Lakewood.
Mostly sink, as in red ink, since not only are the establishments whose fortunes Chiechi follows more than halved in number – “down from a peak of 114 to 56,” but “half again are running in the red.”
Lakewood’s take from the rake – at the Baccarat Pits for example, where the gaming chips are quite a bit bigger than the regular casino chips which is cool; or the city’s share of winnings at the Craps table where ill-afforded costly bets are dependent on the throw of the dice which to the player is at most an illusion of skill – is the equivalent of what is paid out annually for parks, recreation and community services; more than municipal court operating expenses; and percentage-wise the same value, in monetary terms at least, placed upon police dispatch services.
It does not bode well then for the city budget when Baccarat, Blackjack, and bets on the bouncing-ball – dependent as such games of chance are upon wagers designed to separate wages from even the wary – become beleaguered if not blasé, a basically boring pastime (“an activity that someone does regularly for enjoyment rather than work”) beckoning gambling trolls to travel on down the road in search of something with more bells and whistles.
Bemoaning the leakage of lost wages to the Los Vegas-type heady atmosphere of Indian casinos where slot-machines are the tribes’ exclusive purview offering illusive payouts but also obscene profits, Chiechi’s association has three times over the years lobbied unsuccessfully the legislature to remove its reservations to the reservation’s sole proprietorship to the one-armed bandits.
Never mind that “slot machines are designed to trick you” – given that “new research reveals their music and sound effects help convey the illusion that you’re winning” -though this current year the RGA played its cards close to the vest, the bet is when the 63rd Legislature convenes January 13, especially in this lean economy, the cities and casinos will once again be leaning on the lawmakers to connect the financial dots in slots.