As your editorial titled Sore Losers suggests, you believe that all the energy being expended by the Legislature to obtain casino authority is simply a “power play” that has failed and that the recent lawsuit filed against the governor by a number of legislators is due to their feeling “slighted.” A more simplistic and ludicrous interpretation, I cannot imagine. That the destruction of the social and economic fabric of Wisconsin society and the undermining of the foundations of Wisconsin government are at the center of these events apparently totally eludes you. The current struggle between the executive and the Legislature is due to the Legislature’s realization that the governor believes he has plenary authority over gaming compacts that could push the state into an era of unprecedented and unbridled casino gambling. Whether one views such expansion as good or bad, the power to steer the state in such a significant direction should not be the decision of a single person. This is common sense and not a “power play.”
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Gambling is serious business, and a number of states are beginning to realize just how serious it can become. Learning from Connecticut’s casino problems, the states of Maine and Massachusetts are trying to steer clear of casinos. Full-blown commercial gambling cannibalizes the legitimate businesses in its proximity; it destroys jobs as it expands. Gambling does not create wealth; it shifts it around. Gambling hurts those who can least afford it. Gambling is a vice; it is not “economic development,” and because gambling is what it is, government has no business being in the business of gambling. Acting as Americans instead of Democrats and Republicans, all Wisconsin legislators should be very concerned about the expansion of gambling. If casinos are such a marvelous idea, why isn’t the state opting to open its own casinos or allowing non-Indians to operate casinos? It could tax nontribal casinos and wouldn’t have to worry about gaming compacts or federal interference. Non-Indian citizens of Wisconsin are disallowed from operating casinos because their elected officials are being paid by the Indian tribes to maintain their illegal monopolies. Tribes have found that politicians will go to great lengths to help them if they help those politicians to get re-elected. Congress is so happy with this arrangement that it excluded Indian tribes from the campaign-contribution limitations placed on everyone else in its most recent legislation. The tribes prefer to deal with governors over legislatures because they have found it easier to influence one governor than it is to influence several hundred legislators. The arrogance and ambition of a number of governors around the country have allowed many tribes to be successful. Some governors have encountered an alert or alerted legislature, and those governors have been taken to the courts. Without exception, the legislators that took them there acquired their “casino authority.” It’s that simple, and anyone that tells you differently is either uninformed or lying. Scott E. Peterman
Upstate Citizens for Equality Inc.