Thursday, February 16, 2006

96: “Words Are Cheap!”


The governor has said it. A casino in Gettysburg is a bad idea. A Casino near any heritage/historical area is a bad idea. Yep, that’s what he said, our governor, Edward “Fast Eddie” Rendell.

In doing so, he crossed his long-time friend and supporter, Gettysburg’s own David LeVan. LeVan is the president of the investment group trying to build a casino less than two miles from the Borough of Gettysburg, and even closer to parts of the Battlefield. David LeVan tried to turn the governor’s comments to his advantage by claiming the proposed slots parlor was not close to the Gettysburg Battlefield, or the town. The effort was another of the group’s major public relations blunders.

The group promises to not trade on either the town, or the Battlefield, and has changed its name to Crossroads Gaming Resort and Spa. “A rose by any other name…”

It should be noted that LeVan is already trading on that heritage link with his Harley Davidson dealership, which he placed on East Cavalry Field Road, and called Battlefield Harley Davidson. It should also be noted that any casino built at the proposed location will have a Gettysburg mailing address, and all the billboards will say Gettysburg on them. (“Located in Gettysburg”…“at the Gettysburg Exit”…“just off the Gettysburg Pike”…etc.) “A rose by any other name…”

It’s time for some realpolitik here. First, let’s define realpolitik:
realpolitik (ray-ahl-poh-li-teek)
Governmental policies based on hard, practical considerations rather than on moral or idealistic concerns. Realpolitik is German for “the politics of reality” and is often applied to the policies of nations that consider only their own interests in dealing with other countries.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Edited by E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Joseph F. Kett, and James Trefil. Copyright © 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.

As we are applying it here, the hard practical considerations mean money. Oodles of money. Ever since his days as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, “Fast Eddie” has been the beneficiary of oodles of money from the gambling interests of this nation. As DNC chair, he funneled that money into targeted congressional elections across the country hoping to gain seats for the Democrats in Congress. Success was not really there in this endeavor. But Fast Eddie was then indebted to the gambling industry for their largesse. The hook was in.

Now, that realpolitik money has financed his first campaign for governor, on the promise of adding legislation for legalized gaming in Pennsylvania. As a reward, he is likely being financed for reelection by funding from the gambling interests. No doubt there are other candidates, for example some running for re-election to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, who are feeling the largesse of the gambling industry as well. This blogger estimates that Pennsylvania’s “take” from the gambling interests is about a $1 billion. By far, the majority of that money will be spent, or has been spent, in lobbying efforts, almost all of which is strictly unaccountable as Pennsylvania has no lobbying law. How convenient. The hook is set.

So, when Governor “Fast Eddie” Rendell says it’s a bad idea to build a casino near Gettysburg, you can rest assured he does so with impunity. No one in Pennsylvania will lose any money from the gambling industry because of his words. Indeed, he is the Golden Boy of Las Vegas! The industry has not seen the likes of an expansion of gambling in this country before. 14 slots parlors, and hard on their heels, legislation enabling table games (poker, Black Jack, Texas Hold ‘Em, roulette, craps).

That thunderclap sound you just heard was your government bureaucracy expanding. The accompanying whooshing sound was the emptying of your wallet as your taxes go up to support this huge profit-making industry in Pennsylvania.

So, it costs “Fast Eddie” nothing to say a casino in Gettysburg is a bad idea. Indeed, he even won over a few Red County voters for the governor’s race. Of course, he qualified his statement by saying that he does not make the decision where the casinos will go, the Gaming Control Board does. In other words, and if you grasp this realpolitik thing, the deal is already cut. And when the Gaming Control Board announces the granting of a license to Chance Enterprises and the Crossroads Gaming, Spa and Resort, you can bet your bottom tax dollar that “Fast Eddie” will display his great displeasure. And he will be believable.

Realpolitik 2006 = money talks.

Proof? If he really meant what he said, and stood by his words, he would have prodded the General Assembly to pass Representative Steve Maitland’s bill proposing a 15 mile minimum distance between casinos and heritage/historical areas. And then he would have signed it, as long as it had no effect on any other proposed casinos. In other words, the bill must be tailored to suit only Gettysburg, thus excluding placing bans on construction of casinos within ten miles of Valley Forge National Historic Park, and Independence Mall National Historic Park in Philadelphia, to say nothing of the casinos to be built in Pittsburgh that would fall within that minimum to the historic Fort Pitt/Fort Duquesne, and possibly some of the French and Indian Wars battle sites in suburban Pittsburgh. Fat chance. Try to construct a piece of legislation that prohibits a casino only in the Gettysburg area that does not also affect at least one other proposed project! Again, “Fast Eddie” has impunity on his side.

Regardless, he has made no such effort. He has not negotiated with leadership in the General Assembly to get the bill moving, passed, and signed. It would be relatively easy for him to do so, and at little expense to the members of the General Assembly at large. Oh, some of them who are secret investors in the project may howl, but they would be compensated in other ways.

In the world of realpolitik, talk is cheap.

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