October 24, 1996 in City

Tribal Gaming Is A Bad Bet

By The Spokesman-Review

Washington voters approved legalized gambling 24 years ago. At the time, few people were talking about slot machines or casinos or even a state lottery.

They were talking about bingo.

“It’s foolish to fear that this type of amendment would open the state up to Las Vegas-style gambling,” said state Sen. Gordon Walgren, who was leading the movement.

A decade later, Walgren was on his way to prison for his part in a scheme to expand gambling.

And Washington state was on its way to becoming the gambling mecca Walgren and others had assured us it wouldn’t become.

That transition is not complete, yet, but Washington will take another step in that direction if voters approve Initiative 671 on Nov. 5. That proposal would permit some Indian tribes to operate slot machines and electronic poker games - gambling devices not legal off the reservations.

Backers of the measure say it would solidify an economic base tribes need to be self-sufficient. The tribes even would dedicate some of their receipts to salmon-recovery efforts and various local-government needs.

The goal is fine - but not the method.

If Initiative 671 passes, you can bet that non-Indian gaming interests will seek the same authority. State lawmakers’ record on gambling suggests they’d say “yes,” as they’ve been doing since 1972. Bingo and raffles were followed by pulltabs and punchboards. Then card rooms. Then casino nights which, although intended to benefit non-profit groups, turned Ocean Shores for a time into a mini-Reno. And, of course, there’s the state lottery.

Each increment has included license fees and revenues that now pay for various programs including oversight of the gambling activities allowed. Policy-makers have grown so dependent on the income they can’t afford to reverse the trend.

Washington voters can’t reverse the trend either, but they can refuse to continue it. They can vote “no” on Initiative 671.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = EDITORIAL, ENDORSEMENT, COLUMN - Our views CREDIT = Doug Floyd/For the editorial board

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email