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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

The problem gambler

Aww. Chris Christie has a gambling problem:

As the gaming industry continues its free fall, Christie says he wants to "stop the bleeding" in Atlantic City, where the municipal government is a financial train wreck and the casinos have become mostly losing bets for their owners as former patrons flock to competitors in neighboring states.

It's a dilemma with added political urgency for Christie as he nears an announcement on seeking the 2016 Republican nomination for president — a campaign in which rivals surely will try to pin New Jersey's ills (Atlantic City isn't the only one) on Christie.

[. . .]

Twenty-five years ago, legal casino bets could be made only in Atlantic City and Nevada, allowing for two regional monopolies. Today's gambling landscape is dramatically different.

Atlantic City in a relatively short time was brought to its knees. The city had a record $5.2 billion in gaming revenue eight years ago, but betting has dropped by about half since then as gambling has proliferated at sites in neighboring states.

"Atlantic City is symptomatic of what we've seen throughout the country, where casinos have been overbuilt, and the result was a predictable doomsday," Zeitz said. "Atlantic City was going to sustain itself only as long as it could maintain a monopoly east of the Mississippi."

New Jersey's dilemma is of more than passing interest to Hoosiers, because we're headed down that same path. Gambling revenue started declining sharply once our casinos got heavy competition from new operations in surrounding states. Legislators should right now be, 1) figuring out how much gambling-tax revenue the state can do without and, 2) looking for replacement sources for the money we can't do without. Then the state could start easing away from its dependence on gambling.

Instead, the way legislators are talking, they seem inclined to heed the industry's plea for shoring up by the state. Look for land-based casinos in the near future and table games with live dealers at the two racinos.

I would add that by profiting from gambling operations, the state is engaged in a morally dubious enterprise that exploits its citizens' weaknesses. But since the state has its own despicable operation in the Hoosier Lottery, there wouldn't be much point.