To the Editor:
Like a bad penny, Maine casino proposals keep bouncing back.
The latest plan, promising a huge gambling palace in Oxford Hills, will face voter approval or rejection on Nov. 4 unless the Legislature approves it beforehand, which is about as likely as you or I winning the Megabucks jackpot.
One joke line goes: Your chances of winning a pot of money are about the same whether you play or not.
If Maine voters authorize big-time gambling, the losses won’t just be from slot machines or roulette wheels. The big losers will be us, the citizens. We risk losing something that should never be for sale: Our integrity.
Our collective ethics in Maine are already sullied by state sponsorship of the lottery, in which poor people use their food money to buy chances with long, unfavorable odds.
Will we Mainers do anything for money? I don’t think so, but gambling raises ethical questions, and a gambling palace threatens our way of life. We can argue that people have a right to gamble, but there are limits. We try to protect citizens from scams, drugs and thugs. We should also protect them from being robbed by a casino.
If gambling is such a good idea, why do its promoters call it “gaming” instead? You already know why. It’s because commercial gambling isn’t nice at all. It’s all about fleecing customers and making huge profits. To me, there is nothing wrong with a friendly poker game around the kitchen table, or bingo down at the Grange or Legion Hall. These are very local activities, and what little money changes hands stays local.
But big-time Las Vegas-style gambling is another story, and it’s not the story of Maine. Our state can hold its head up, proudly, for a long heritage of farming, fishing, lumbering, shipbuilding, and other honest trades.
In recent years several projects to make some easy gambling money have been pitched by developers with the same result.
When a gambling casino was proposed in Wiscasset six years ago, residents shot it down, because this is not the kind of future we want. When the Penobscot Nation and Passamaquoddy Tribe recently proposed a gambling resort in southern Maine, voters said “no.” Then the Passamaquoddy Tribe tried Calais. Same result.
While some claimed this was anti-Indian prejudice, it’s more likely anti-gambling sentiment.
There is no question we have mistreated Native Americans, and they are so poor that any economic project starts to look good. But a casino would only offer menial jobs to local people, and who really believes the profits would flow to the tribes?
Maine people should aim higher than lining up to empty their pockets into slot machines, roulette wheels and other money-losers that are stacked against you.
Unfortunately, voters were bamboozled by the bogus “racino” in Bangor. It’s a slot machine emporium where a limited portion of proceeds goes to horseracing. The gambling parlor is nowhere near the racetrack, proving that the horseracing connection was a pretense.
A gambling palace in Oxford Hills won’t boost the state’s overall economy either. It will line the pockets of big Las Vegas backers, and it will alter the character of western Maine with tacky development, traffic and the sense that we have sold a piece of our soul.
As a champion of keeping gambling out of Maine, the late newspaper editor James Russell Wiggins once told state lottery officials that he would print the names of winners if they would also supply him with a list of losers he could publish.
Maine is already rich in tradition, rich in the strength of character of its communities. We are blessed with a natural environment that is our main attraction, and with careful planning, a path to prosperity.
A casino is out of place here. It’s a bad gamble.
To the Editor: