Believe What You Like But Know What You Must

People are free to be consumed with contemplating their existence, their origins, the origins of the universe, supreme beings, controllers of destiny or anything else. But solving "the Great Mystery" is neither a requirement of being Ohnkwe Ohnwe nor does it provide a path to righteousness. I maintain that spirituality does not require faith or the leaps that faith requires but rather awareness. If it helps to believe that "God has a plan" and we just must have faith that "He" knows what "He" is doing, then walk that path. My interest is in taking the mystery out of life by pointing to the obvious that is ignored everyday in the midst of fanatical ideology and the sometimes not too subtle influences of promoting beliefs over knowledge. I have said it before: “beliefs are what you are told, knowledge is what you experience”. I support a culture that prepares us to receive knowledge and to live a life with purpose. I am certainly not suggesting there is only one way to do that.

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Take a Hard Look at What a State-Run Casino in Your Town Won’t do, Then Vote “No” on the Gaming Referendum


An edited version of this commentary was published in the Albany Times Union 11/1/13

First, let me state for the record that I am a Mohawk, my wife is Oneida and I live on the Seneca Territory of Cattaraugus south of Buffalo, New York. I receive no gaming proceeds from any Native gaming nor does my family.


While I am not a fan of gaming, I will always defend the right for Native communities to be a part of the industry. And although I am opposed to casinos being an economic development objective I’ll concede some value to it as a means to creating revenue for so other community goals can be realized.

Native casinos face many of the same challenges as other non-Native gaming enterprises. But several clear distinctions need to be made between what exists now and what the Governor has proposed.
The reason gaming works for small populations supported by Native gaming is obvious — gaming revenue comes from outside these communities from larger populations that ultimately creates revenue for smaller populations. If Seneca, Mohawk or Oneida gaming had to rely only on their own small populations for patronage they would still only be operating tiny bingo halls.

With the exception of Las Vegas and maybe Atlantic City, casinos draw 90 percent of their patronage from within a fifty-mile radius of the venue. New York State will never be Nevada or New Jersey. That means all the revenue projections the gaming hawks are throwing around is not new money coming into an area. It will be local income, which will be spent by local patrons without much disposable income with false hopes of big wins — which will never materialize.

Where will the money made by these new casinos go? Native gaming operators are local, as are their shareholders, so every dollar of profit from Native gaming is essentially funneled back into the local economies. And that includes government programs, services and any indirect or direct benefit to the Native people of those communities.

By contrast, the proposed state licensed casinos and current racetrack casinos will be operated by large gaming corporations with interests, financiers, investors and shareholders from across the globe. While the idea of outside investment coming into an area sounds nice, it is not so great when that giant sucking sound starts pulling all of that gaming revenue out of the area. And speaking of giant slurping sounds, consider this — a tax of more than 40 percent by Albany will also ensure that even more money flows freely out of the host communities. Only this carved out portion will go into the state coffer’s black hole. I know, the Governor promised that portions of that revenue would return to the communities that get a casino in their back yards. But, in reality, that will be a very small portion.

The promise of jobs is also overstated. The vast majority of gaming jobs pay at or about minimum wage. Tips may push some of the salaries up to a more attractive level but the funny thing about tips is that they fade away with the novelty of the venue. The first waves of gambling enthusiasts are quick to flash the cash but as gaming losses add up — and they certainly will — the tips quickly diminish. No one ever sought help for tipping addictions. 

And the big salaried jobs that have been dangled in front of us? Reality check — they will mostly be imports. The specialized skill of “player development” and maximizing gaming profits has no room for on-the-job training. These highly skilled jobs will get filled by shuffling the deck within these lucrative gaming corps chomping at the bit for a crack at New York.

So while gaming supporters claim that billions will be made off the backs of upstate local gaming patrons they fail to suggest where those patrons will materialize with billions to lose on “entertainment.” Who will lose business as pending habits shift and just what won't get purchased so gaming dollars can materialize will remain to be seen. It’s easy to suggest just “build it and they will come.” But where will they come from?

1 comment:

Cindy Treis said...

Well written! Thank you for sharing your opinions and the facts.