Exactly What Ohio Needs…To Commit Cultural Suicide

GamblingThis story from the Des Moines Register is written in a somewhat light-hearted, wink-wink, nudge-nudge style but putting a little thought into it reveals that, like an iceberg, the dangerous part is below the surface.

The question here is about how casinos outside Las Vegas market themselves to attract customers and how those customers translate that message. The fired employee, Mr. Jorgensen, demonstrated that he understood exactly the intent of the Iowa casino’s marketers in their sales campaign. He said “The advertisement is that it’s just like Las Vegas, so I thought I was in Las Vegas.” Mr. Jorgensen was drawn by the implied promise and the belief that “what happens in Iowa City stays in Iowa City.” Obviously, this was a mistaken belief.

What Mr. Jorgensen believed was that he was being treated by the casino, his employer, to a night of drunken debauchery, complete with gambling, pornography, prostitutes, etc. What his casino bosses know and are actively trying to obfuscate is that Mr. Jorgensen’s assumption is exactly what they’re trying to sell to certain kinds of people. People like Mr. Jorgensen. But the obfuscation is in play because the casino operators know that there is a tension in their marketing efforts. If Iowans who aren’t really paying attention, having been temporarily dazed and confused by claims of giant revenues and consequent potential unlimited benefits from allowing casino gambling, begin to see the truth of what casino gambling brings to surrounding communities they will demand an end to it. And the cold reality is that casino gambling brings increased theft, prostitution, assault, broken families, bankruptcies, drugs, pornography, gambling addiction and costs to clean up the mess that far exceed the revenues.

So the trick for casino operators is to sell their non-Vegas casinos as the closest possible clone, implying that anything available in Vegas will be available in Iowa City or Wheeling or Rising Sun or wherever to gamblers and those who seek the other activities accompanying gambling while not awakening the locals to the cold reality. It’s a tight-rope walk and Mr. Jorgensen has been caught in the backdraft of casino management’s effort to show locals that they’re keeping it “family friendly.” Jorgensen, for one, gets the idea that he has been treated hypocritically. “Gamblers have been allowed to continue gambling after they’ve urinated on the blackjack table standing in full public view,” he testified. “I think there’s a little dual standard here.” Of course there’s a dual standard, but after all it’s for the common good!

Ohio needs to think very hard before allowing casino gambling, or keno machines, for that matter. Keno machines are no different from electronic slots and they have the problem of being constitutionally banned, though this little impediment doesn’t seem to bother Governor Strickland or Attorney General Marc Dann.