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A name-calling former governor and inequality

March 28, 2011 - Mike Maneval
Back in January, an incident which I wished to write about happened as other news kept me and my blogging busy. However, a conference last week provides an excellent chance to return to the topic.

In January, our then-governor Ed Rendell called CBS correspondents "simpletons" and "idiots" for questioning the impact of legalized gambling during his tenure in Harrisburg on compulsive gamblers. reports that Rendell defended the legalization of gambling in Pennsylvania by arguing that men and women have always gambled and will always gamble.

Except, really, Gov. Ed Rendell only half-legalized gambling on slot machines - if that. If a consumer wishes to play slot machines, they now have the freedom to do so. If you or I decide to use our respective properties to offer opportunities to gamble ... we still would face criminal charges - no matter if we are capable of meeting any stipulations or requirements the state has placed or were to decide to place on casino operators.

By capping the number of casinos at 10, the state effectively cartelized slot machine operations. The investors in 10 enterprises are afforded a liberty or privilege - depending on your view of gambling - denied other tax-paying residents of the state. Thus, the speculators behind these 10 casinos get a new, first-class citizenship while the rest of us are reduced to second-class citizenship.

And the first-class citizens, according to the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, already are circling their wagons to protect the exclusive nature of their vaunted status. Last week, at an industry insiders' convention in Philadelphia called the Pennsylvania Gaming Congress, casino operators discouraged legislators and other state officials from permitting more casinos that would lead to more competition for them.

The cap on the number of slot-machine parlors allowed by the state would merely be disgusting, if one of the 10 enterprises wasn't operated by convicted criminal Lou DeNaples. The licensing board appointed by Rendell decided DeNaples deserved these special privileges not afforded the vast majority of Pennsylvanians anyways, and added a stipulation to his licensing that turned day-to-day control of operations over to his daughter ... because there is no better icing for this cake of corruption and inequality than the icing of merit-assaulting nepotism.

I don't know, personally, if gambling should be criminalized or legal. I don't know if only simpletons oppose the expansion of an industry often connected to deteriorating property values and rising crime rates. I don't know if a belief that free men and free women should be able to wager the money that belongs to them is idiotic. But I know - regardless of what names the former governor could find to call me - the governor's policy of special privileges for the well-connected is un-American.


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