One of the more alarming development prospects over the past decade has been a proposed Indian casino just over the county line in Amador. Alarming because, whatever you may think of casinos, they are a huge money suck. They impoverish people, and they open a Pandora’s box of social problems in their communities.
Unfortunately, a judge just removed the last obstacle stopping the Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians, a tiny tribe, and a New York tycoon, from building a 55,000-square-foot casino by Lake Camanche.
This casino is aimed at Stockton.
Now, you might think I’m being moralistic. I am not. I have no religious scruples against gambling, drinking or watching bad lounge acts. My opposition is based on irrefutable scientific research showing the hurt casinos put on cities. And Stockton is the closest big city.
I mean, come on. You think you can handle gambling, and maybe you can. But this is the city where the so-called ruling elite were so financially illiterate they bankrupted the city. Can you imagine how lesser educated citizens will fare?
I’m reproducing a column I wrote in 2005. Forewarned is forearmed.
The Record Wednesday, October 26, 2005 B1
Section: Local / Column
Casino’s hose aimed at Stockton
By Michael Fitzgerald
There‘s a cloud hanging over San Joaquin County: the proposed Flying Cloud Gaming and Entertainment Complex.
The Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians, a tiny tribe, and a New York tycoon propose to build a 55,000-square-foot casino just across the county line in Amador.
But make no mistake: The hose on this money vacuum is pointed squarely at Stockton.
Being roughly 35 miles away, Stockton is the only large city in the casino‘s “primary feeder market.” Fifty-four percent of its bucks are expected to come from here.
From the worldly, nonmoralistic, Playboy-philosophy kind of viewpoint, the first reaction to the news of a $200 million casino offering 2,000 slot machines, 80 gambling tables, restaurants, lounges and shows less than an hour‘s drive away may be: Goodie, a new adult playground.
But the damage casinos wreak far outweighs whatever tingle they send up your spine.
The casino will further clog county roads, further dirty county air, further worsen crime and drive a lot of people into the poorhouse.
Thank Rhonda Morningstar Pope. Great-granddaughter of a former leader, Pope entered the picture five years ago in a blaze of Indian righteousness.
The Sacramento bookkeeper sued to replace the tribal government. She was outraged over plans to desecrate sacred tribal lands, 67.5 acres on Coal Mine Road, with a — gasp — casino.
According to the Sacramento Bee, before the Bureau of Indian Affairs even ousted her rivals, Pope inked a casino deal with Tom Wilmot Sr., a New York developer of 20 regional malls.
Too bad for the area east of Camanche Reservoir. With its small roads and quiet, back-country character, it is miserably suited to host a 17-acre casino complex.
The casino will attract up to 11,604 new road trips on certain days, according to the tribal environmental-impact report.
Traffic will worsen on Eight Mile Road, Liberty Road, Peltier Road — the east-west roads leading to Highway 88, according to San Joaquin County‘s Public Works Department.
So there is no way to avoid worse air pollution, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District says, in a region already wheezing with some of the nation‘s worst air.
It gets worse. According to John Warren Kindt, a University of Illinois professor and a national authority on gambling, 5 percent of gamblers become addicts. These self-fleecing sheep blow $15,000 to $42,000 a year and rack up $72,000 to $83,000 in debt.
As their bankruptcies rise, so do larceny, burglary, armed robbery, pimping, prostitution, drug sales and fencing your stolen stereo, according to Kindt.
Casinos boast they bring “economic development.” All they really bring are a few hundred low-paying jobs. They create no product, suck millions from local economies and cause costly economic and social problems.
Unfortunately, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a compact with the Me-Wuks OK‘ing the casino. The only thing holding it up is Amador County‘s government.
Amador filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., alleging the secretary of the interior wrongfully signed off on the compact. Amador contends the rancheria fits none of the categories of Indian land on which gambling is allowed. A judge is considering.
Amador residents get to vote yea or nay on the casino Nov. 8. But the vote is not binding.
This is a travesty. Gambling never should have been legalized outside Las Vegas. The California State Lottery made it seem respectable. It‘s a scourge.
Casinos need to expand to compete with each other. Ultimately they get so big — the money gets so big — it corrupts governments, Kindt reports.
Plus, the original intent of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act — self-support and empowerment for Indians — has been twisted. Who gets rich often are non-Indian investors and their chosen shills. Most tribes remain mired in poverty.
Weigh all that against your freedom to act like the Rat Pack for a night. What a sucker bet.
Contact columnist Michael Fitzgerald at 209 546-8270 or firstname.lastname@example.org