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Legal Gambling Wins Big, Very Big, At The Polls

13 January 2000

The Reverend Tom Grey has it wrong - his National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling is not winning any elections.

It is the proponents of legalized gaming who are winning virtually every race. Their near-complete sweep of the November 1998 elections, following unprecedented victories in 1996, show there has been a tidal change in the way Americans view gambling.

The change began in November 1976, when voters in New Jersey approved casinos for Atlantic City. This was the first time in American history that proponents of casino gaming won a state-wide election. It was not much of a fight. Opponents were so over-confident from their smashing defeat of a casino proposal two years earlier they raised only $23,230 and did not even spend it all! Proponents spent $1,330,615.

By 1996, casino proponents were winning real races. Despite active opposition, voters in Michigan and Arizona approved bringing in new, high-stakes casinos and seven parishes in Louisiana voted to keep their casinos. Despite these unprecedented victories, legal gaming suffered many defeats at the polls in 1996.

Two years later, there were no defeats.

You can distrust polls conducted by casino companies, which find a majority of the country view casinos as merely another form of entertainment. But, you cannot ignore millions of voters in state after state voting in favor of legal gambling.

Proposition 5 in California got the most attention. Proponents of Indian casinos had enormous financial and political resources. But the size of the landslide, 63-37 percent, shows voters simply do not fear casinos or slot machines, any more.

In Missouri, voters approved "riverboat" (actually "boats in moats") casinos for the third time. The state Supreme Court keeps throwing it out and the state’s voters keep putting it back. Proponents have lost only one low-turnout, special election.

In a binding referendum, 56 percent of voters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, refused to ban casino gambling. The vote is the first step in converting Dairyland Greyhound Park into a multimillion dollar casino to be owned by the Menominee Indian tribe.

Racetracks have always had more support than casinos, but still often lost at the polls. For example, in 1980 New Jersey voters would not approve something as innocuous as Sunday racing. By 1998, voters adopted a constitutional amendment allowing the state legislature to authorize off-track betting and even telephone wagering.

Americans are more enthusiastic still about state lotteries. Since 1963, lottery proponents have won every statewide election, except one, (the only defeat came in North Dakota, which already had charity blackjack). Even the Bible Belt loves lotteries.

The Republican incumbent governor of South Carolina, one of the most Republican states in the South, lost reelection primarily due to his opposition to the state’s video poker machines and to establishing a state lottery for education.

The story was the same in Alabama: The Republican incumbent was defeated in large part because of his opposition to a state lottery.

These were the only two governors who lost in November, 1998.

Gaming opponents rarely can gather enough signatures to get a repeal on the ballot. They failed this year in both Michigan and Mississippi. But the vocal opposition can sometimes force fearful legislators to let the voters decide.

A dramatic test of legal gambling’s popularity took place at the polls in Arizona. For the first time this century, it looked like a state might vote to kill its state lottery. The Arizona Lottery had been hit by crisis after crisis, including embarrassing computer glitches. The state has a large Mormon population, and Church leaders reminded voters of its official opposition to gambling, right before the election.

Nonetheless, a large majority voted to extend the lottery through 2003.

Gambling won wherever it was a factor. In New Mexico, Gov. Gary E. Johnson, won election four years ago with heavy campaign contributions from tribal casinos. One of his first acts was to sign tribal/state compacts. In November, 1998 Johnson won again, becoming the state’s first two-term governor.

The Democratic candidate for governor of Illinois made a show of refusing to accept contributions from riverboat casinos. He lost.

Incumbent New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen was reelected by a vote of 66-32 percent over challenger Jay Lucas. Lucas opposed gaming, while Shaheen has considered putting in slot machines at racetracks.

In Massachusetts, the Attorney General, Scott Harshbarger, lost the gubernatorial race to acting Gov. Paul Cellucci. Harshbarger strongly opposed gaming. Cellucci had worked to set up a tribal casino and to put slots into racetracks.

It may be pure coincidence, but the triumph at the polls was so complete that gambling won battles it did not even know it was fighting.

For example, three of the leading opponents of Internet gaming all lost their races: Attorneys General Skip Humphrey came in third in his race for governor in Minnesota; Jay Nixon will not be going from Missouri to the U.S. Senate; and in California, Dan Lungren lost to Gray Davis, who is also much more friendly toward Indian gaming.

Only the defeat of Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, who was not up for re-election, would have been more significant for Internet gaming.

Anti-gambling forces did have a couple of victories. A nasty fight in Maryland ended with a win for incumbent Gov. Parris Glendening, a vocal opponent of racetrack slot machines. Even here, surveys showed that gambling was not an issue; voters were most concerned about education.

But the Rev. Grey can claim two straight wins: in Arizona and Missouri. Both states voted to outlaw cockfighting.

Recent Articles
Best of I. Nelson Rose
I. Nelson Rose

Professor I. Nelson Rose is an internationally known scholar, public speaker and writer and is recognized as one of the world's leading authorities on gambling law. A 1979 graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a tenured full Professor at Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa, California, where he teaches one of the first law school classes on gaming law.

Professor Rose is the author of more than 300 books, articles, book chapters columns. He is best known for his internationally syndicated column, "Gambling and the Law ®," and his landmark 1986 book by the same name. His most recent book is a collection of columns and analysis, co-authored with Bob Loeb, on Blackjack and the Law.

A consultant to governments and industry, Professor Rose has testified as an expert witness in administrative, civil and criminal cases in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, and has acted as a consultant to major law firms, international corporations, licensed casinos, players, Indian tribes, and local, state and national governments, including Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas and the federal governments of Canada and the United States.

With the rising interest in gambling throughout the world, Professor Rose has spoken before such diverse groups as the F.B.I., National Conference of State Legislatures, Congress of State Lotteries of Europe, United States Conference of Mayors, and the National Academy of Sciences. He has presented scholarly papers on gambling in Nevada, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, England, Australia, Antigua, Portugal, Italy, Argentina and the Czech Republic.

He is the author of Internet Gaming Law (1st & 2nd editions), Blackjack and the Law and Gaming Law: Cases and Materials.

I. Nelson Rose Websites:

www.gamblingandthelaw.com

Books by I. Nelson Rose:

Compulsive Gambling and the Law

> More Books By I. Nelson Rose

I. Nelson Rose
Professor I. Nelson Rose is an internationally known scholar, public speaker and writer and is recognized as one of the world's leading authorities on gambling law. A 1979 graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a tenured full Professor at Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa, California, where he teaches one of the first law school classes on gaming law.

Professor Rose is the author of more than 300 books, articles, book chapters columns. He is best known for his internationally syndicated column, "Gambling and the Law ®," and his landmark 1986 book by the same name. His most recent book is a collection of columns and analysis, co-authored with Bob Loeb, on Blackjack and the Law.

A consultant to governments and industry, Professor Rose has testified as an expert witness in administrative, civil and criminal cases in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, and has acted as a consultant to major law firms, international corporations, licensed casinos, players, Indian tribes, and local, state and national governments, including Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas and the federal governments of Canada and the United States.

With the rising interest in gambling throughout the world, Professor Rose has spoken before such diverse groups as the F.B.I., National Conference of State Legislatures, Congress of State Lotteries of Europe, United States Conference of Mayors, and the National Academy of Sciences. He has presented scholarly papers on gambling in Nevada, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, England, Australia, Antigua, Portugal, Italy, Argentina and the Czech Republic.

He is the author of Internet Gaming Law (1st & 2nd editions), Blackjack and the Law and Gaming Law: Cases and Materials.

I. Nelson Rose Websites:

www.gamblingandthelaw.com

Books by I. Nelson Rose:

Compulsive Gambling and the Law

> More Books By I. Nelson Rose