CT News Junkie | OP-ED | Gambling It All Away

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OP-ED | Gambling It All Away

by | Feb 3, 2017 10:00am
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Posted to: The Economy, Leisure & Hospital Sector, Opinion

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These days, I feel like going to a casino and blowing my paycheck on a greasy slot machine. I want to be at a blackjack table surrounded by bitter high school teachers with voices like sandpaper and comp tickets to Dawson’s Creek on Ice. My luck’s gotta turn at some point, right?

I might as well get ready to put all my money on red, because we’re about to have a serious glut of casinos around here. Springfield’s scaled-down but still grossly outsized MGM casino is on track to open sometime next year; the parking garage has already risen along Union Street while the steel skeleton for the hotel and casino floor crouches, hulking, on the rest of a blasted piece of dirt that used to be several city blocks.

Then there’s the spite casino promised by the nice folks from the Mohegan and the Mashantucket Pequot tribes. They’re currently scrambling to find a town desperate enough to buy their promises of jobs and tourism, and they may have found that town in East Windsor. There, people are actually enthusiastic about turning a hollowed-out old Showcase Cinemas into a casino. Why? Jobs! It’ll put the town on the map! It’s 12 entire miles down the highway from Springfield!

Casinos can sometimes help the economy, but that’s in cases where there’s no other casinos nearby. In our case, the casino market is pretty saturated already, and the addition of two new casinos so close to one another will just make that worse. This is like having a Starbucks across the street from a Dunkin Donuts in a small town where only a small fraction of the people drink coffee every day.

But hey, more power to East Windsor for trying. And more power to the people in Windsor Locks who want to site that mythical casino at the airport, instead. They’re willing to take a risk, to try and bluff their way to victory with a pair of black aces and a pair of black eights when the other guy’s got a straight flush. Because, let’s be honest, the chances that casinos are going to magically revitalize hard-luck Springfield or a small post-industrial northern Connecticut town are not great.

But why the heck not just go for it? Everything’s a gamble now anyway, right?

Take the state budget. Every year the governor has bet on some fix or another to actually cure the gaping, seeping wound that is the deficit, and every year it just gets worse. So what are we doing this year? This week Democrats voted to spread out payments for the pension fund out over an additional 14 years, which may either stabilize things or be a total disaster for the next generation.

The rest of the budget is all very secret-secret so far, but everyone’s expecting the state to stop sending as much money to towns, and to try to renegotiate pensions in some way. Will that do it? Will the governor end his term with an actual surplus instead of yet another billion-dollar hole?

Anything can happen. Let’s take the chance. Maybe this time we’ll roll some freaking boxcars instead of the usual snake eyes.

And then there’s the President of the United States and the constitutional crisis we’ve been roaring through for the past two weeks. This is a guy who thinks he’s basically the king of high rollers, the swaggering bully who has the money and the clout to do whatever he wants. So he governs by throwing out executive orders that cause chaos, like his bizarre travel ban which, among other things, kept legal residents of the United States carrying green cards stuck in airports for hours on end without food or water.

In the middle of all that, a federal judge issued a stay that was supposed to apply to the whole country. The Trump administration apparently didn’t listen. Worse, congressional staffers were apparently working on the order in secret, behind their members’ backs. They even signed non-disclosure agreements. So much for the separation of powers, and so much for those checks and balances we thought we had.

Turns out all it takes for our hallowed democracy to come crashing down is one guy who doesn’t mean well, and a political party who are all willing to go along with it. I guess the founders didn’t know what they were doing after all.

So sure, step right up and place your bets. Because even though the game is rigged and the house always wins, we can hope that someday Lady Luck will come back to our door.

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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