Friday, December 30, 2011

Gambling Then And Now, Blumenthal Then And Now

In moving from Connecticut’s attorney general’s office to the U.S. Senate, Dick Blumenthal left behind a truckload of news releases sent out on an almost daily basis to the local media, as well as a few hundred moldy cases quickly dismissed by incoming Attorney General George Jepsen as unsound.

No doubt some of those numberless press releases are rattling around like dry old bones in the news morgues of many a Connecticut newspaper.

A few of them relating to internet gambling and the stories they mothered can be fetched from the internet.

Attorney General Blumenthal, as early as 1997, sent out to various newspapers in Connecticut, some of which were much in the habit of reflexively printing his news releases as received, an anti-internet gambling thunderbolt entitled “Blumenthal Urges Effort to Ban Internet Gambling.”

Mr. Blumenthal noted in his release that “Gambling and the Internet is a mix that is a recipe for deceit and financial disaster.”

Along with other state attorneys general, Mr. Blumenthal appeared at the time before a U.S. Senate subcommittee to endorse legislation he said was essential to preserve state regulation of gambling.

Mr. Blumenthal testified that internet gambling would be, according to his press release, “rife with problems, including no regulation or control over those operating the Internet gambling -- including possibly criminals -- and no protections for those who placed wagers.”

That was then.

Coincident with a memo written by Virginia Seitz, head of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel and a possible Obama nominee to the Supreme Court, stating that previous legislation bars only internet betting on sports – not internet betting in general – Governor of Connecticut Dannel Malloy said that “he welcomes the ruling as a way to raise more money for the state,” according to a report by WTHN News 8.

The Christian Science Monitor has pointed out that “To win Senate approval to serve on the court, she [Ms. Seitz] would need the support of Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada. Last year, most of Nevada’s big casinos became big backers of an effort to overturn the federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.”

Other cash strapped governors across the fruited plains salivated uncontrollably after the legal opinion that allows states to authorize Web-based, non-sports gambling within their borders.

The ruling breaks open the tax piggy bank at a time when spendthrift legislators and governors had been forced by circumstances to cut spending in their states. The rush of new taxes from newly permitted internet gambling would relieve their anxieties and postpone politically wounding cost saving measures, perhaps beyond the upcoming elections.

It should be noted that internet gambling could not effectively be regulated by current state strictures governing state betting parlors. Internet gambling is a new game that would need new regulations, as well as a federal regulatory apparatus to insure a happy outcome.

Mr. Blumenthal, whose opposition to internet gambling has thawed since 1997, recently told News 8 that "What we really need” are federal regulations that will protect “consumers, so that credit card fraud and identity theft do not come with online gambling.”

In 2002, then Attorney General Richard Blumenthal was one of the keynote speakers, along with Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and Jeff Benedict, author of “Without Reservation,” at a public forum sponsored by the Coalition Against Gambling Expansion (CAGE).

In a media release, CAGE noted a series of “facts” surrounding gambling that have not been disputed by Mr. Blumenthal:

“Crime rates in communities with casinos are 84% higher than the national average… Gambling hurts local businesses. One-third of Atlantic City’s retail businesses closed within four years of the arrival of casinos… Gambling costs taxpayers money. Every $ 1 in gambling revenue costs states between $ 3 to $ 7 in hidden costs… Gambling eliminates jobs. For every 1 job created by casinos, surrounding communities lose 1 to 2 jobs… Gambling hurts our kids. In states with legalized gambling, 5% to 11% of the teenagers will become compulsive gamblers… Gambling is addictive. A Connecticut study showed that 47% of those who gamble in the state are problem or pathological gamblers… Gambling wrecks lives. In states with legalized gambling: 99% of compulsive gamblers commit crimes; 100% of compulsive gamblers become physically abusive, especially towards children; 25% of compulsive gamblers end up in the legal system…”

Such “facts” cannot be mitigated through regulations. But, then again, inconvenient truths are not likely to weigh heavily on the consciences of Democratic senators and governors whose overriding concern in an era of diminishing tax returns is – how best to raise tax revenue to allow increases in state spending levels without spooking the geese that lay the golden eggs.

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