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Gambling Venue 100% Sucker Bait

Sun., Oct. 5, 1997

The last time Washington state’s voters had a chance to consider a proposed expansion of gambling, three fourths said no. That alone should make Gov. Gary Locke cool to a $17 million tribal casino proposed for Airway Heights, west of Spokane. Its future is up to him.

However, Locke could be sorely tempted to ignore the wisdom of the voters. Many run-of-the-mill politicos are afraid to oppose Indian gambling projects. Diversionary shrieks of “racism!” greet those who tell the truth about this industry - namely, that casinos are a form of legalized robbery, all tarted up in the feather boas and sharkskin suits of deceptive marketing.

You might strike it rich while we empty your wallet, the industry purrs. Look at our big corporation, our nice architectural plans, the impoverished reservation, the do-good social project we’ll build on the casino’s back lot. We won’t send all that much of our profits to corporate headquarters in Miami. Some will go to a good cause, the Indian tribe.

Besides, we’ll make it fun for low-income and retired persons to lose their money. They’ll hardly feel it.

As a group, voters haven’t been fooled by such bilge.

As governor, responsible for the well-being of our state including the economically struggling Spokane region, Locke shouldn’t let himself be fooled, either.

The Airway Heights project would set a precedent of profound importance. It would invite other tribes to purchase land in metropolitan areas and then erect casinos there - insulated from direct control by state gambling regulators, and exempt from state and local building and zoning codes.

The Kalispel Tribe, based far from Spokane, bought the casino site just a few years ago and claims it will comply with the “spirit” of state and local laws. Would it later use the autonomy that goes with tribal land? Who knows?

If Locke approves the Kalispels’ project, other tribes will expect approval to plant casinos in cities, as well. At that point, the public could deem it wiser to allow state-regulated casino gambling everywhere.

The only way to stop the escalation of gambling is to stop it. Period. Now.

Gambling has the economic value of a leech. It makes no useful products. It is lucrative because most customers lose their money. The customers tend to be lower-income folks and retirees, hungry for the industry’s get-rich-quick deceptions. Nationwide, many prominent casino communities have suffered a worsening of family bankruptcies, crime and social decay.

Airway Heights already boasts the state’s largest prison, an industry that likewise attracts trouble, in the form of parolees and the inmates’ struggling families. A casino would deepen our area’s problems.

Just say no, governor. Let us strengthen our economy with the honest tools of education and productive employment.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = John Webster/For the editorial board

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