For some people gambling is a harmless diversion. A fun way to play with – and usually lose – one's hard-earned money. For others, it is a fool's errand. Overcome with a sort of sickness, they see gambling as the chance to strike it rich, to make something out of almost nothing based on one role of the dice or the turn of a single card can leave a person set for life.
In life, unfortunately, there are few shortcuts and no substitute for hard work, initiative, and common sense. Gambling too often leads to a life of addiction, one that not only affects the life of the addict but also has a deleterious impact on the lives of those closest to the addict, and the ones that care the most.
In its search for continuing sources of new revenue, the government has made itself a partner with gaming establishments that prey on the spiritually weakest in society as well as the poorest. This is certainly the case with many American Indian tribes who were persuaded by lawyers in sharp suits and expensive cars that the establishment of casinos on tribal lands would mean jobs, money, and better living standards for a people who had long been mistreated and otherwise forgotten.
These casinos have delivered as many knew they would, just not as were promised. In their wake they have left increasing alcoholism, prostitution, drug abuse, corruption, waste, filth, and have been, in the most general sense, a blight on the communities in which they are located. They are something to be feared rather than welcomed with open arms.
This is probably why, almost two decades ago, Wisconsin voters approved an advisory referendum to limit casino expansion in the state. With more gambling establishments than nearby Illinois, which has almost double the population, Wisconsin has become a haven from tribal gaming activities and a boon to those who profit off them.
The people's advice to the governor and to the legislators in Madison is now being put to the test. In August the United States Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, approved an application by the Menominee Indian Tribe for a new casino to be located in Kenosha. This is more than 160 miles from the tribe's headquarters but right in the heart of where marketing research probably suggests the most money is to be made.
It is one thing to allow Indian tribes, which are after all sovereign nations to build casinos on their own lands – and to bear the brunt of the responsibility for their operations and for all the unsavory elements that somehow always seem to follow. It is quite another to take advantage of what is essentially a loophole in the law to let tribes operate casinos on land that is not historically theirs.
Remember, the intent behind allowing the tribes to get into the gaming business the hope it would generate a financial windfall that would life those living on the reservations out of poverty and provide Indian children a chance to become fully vested in the American dream. It was, in a sense, an act of misplaced charity.
What was clearly not the intent of Congress was to allow the tribes to become gaming industry titans, with operations well beyond the boundaries of their traditional holdings. To allow that to happen is to hold out false hope to the Indians while allowing the various criminal elements that inevitably follow the establishment of gaming facilities to spread their corruption throughout the nation.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has a chance to stop the spread from continuing. He recently set out three principles to govern changes to tribal gaming in the state that are both reasonable and sensible. In order for a new casino to open, it must have the approval of the locality in which it is to be located, have the consent of all 11 of the state's Indian tribes, and produce no net increase in gaming.
If followed, Walker's rules would probably kill the Menominee's application for a new facility in Kenosha. This would be a good thing. The state, which is still mired in the same post-recessionary anemic recovery that has affected the rest of the country, does not need another casino where pensioners and others who are hard-pressed to make a go of it can risk their savings in the hope of a quick strike. Like every other state, Wisconsin needs an increase in the number of good jobs available at good wages.
The proposed Kenosha casino would have the opposite effect. According to one study, it would bring an economic disaster to the region, especially in the City and County of Milwaukee and across the border in Northern Illinois. Construction of the proposed casino would result in an estimated 3,000 lost jobs and cost Milwaukee more than $1.6 million in lost annual revenue. Lake County, Illinois could lose as much as $89 million per year in revenue and more than 500 jobs.
Wisconsin is oversaturated with casinos and gaming facilities. Gambling directly impacts 345,000 people and likely over 86,000 families. The Menominee's proposed casino will add to the social ills associated with gaming. Gov. Walker should stop the expansion of gaming in the state and say 'No; to the Menominee proposal.