Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Politics of Gambling

Before clerking for Justice Hugo L. Black, I spent a year with Judge John R. Brown and what was then the U.S. Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit. Among the criminal cases appealed to our court, there were quite a few involving what was then called "the numbers racket."

The FCC forbid broadcasters to hint at winning numbers in radio and TV programs.

What was then a serious federal crime is now approved by the state. Winning numbers are a regular feature in the evening news. We call it the Iowa Lottery.

The casinos that were then located in Las Vegas are now located throughout Iowa, making it possible for Iowans' money to flow out of the state with the ease of water from corn fields flowing through under-surface tiling systems.

Politicians who would have been charged with mafia ties were they found to be the recipients of gambling industry money, now go after it openly, report it publicly, and no one seems to care.

The contrast was pointed up for me with a couple of news stories: Associated Press, "Spat on TouchPlay, Gambling Heats Up in Gov's Race," KWWL-TV7, October 24, 2006, and Dorothy de Souza Guedes, "C. R. woman pleads guilty in gambling case," The Gazette, October 24, 2006.

The first dealt with the mud balls Culver and Nussle are throwing back and forth at each other. Nussle charges Culver received a $25,000 loan from TouchPlay interests and has a "secret plan" to either reinstall the TouchPlay machines or pay the industry big bucks for outlawing them. Lt. Governor Sally Pederson responded, on Culver's behalf, that Nussle has received $250,000 in campaign contributions from the gambling industry and that his finance chairman personally owns two casinos himself.

Meanwhile, in our government's effort to reassure us that we are being kept safe from the terrorism and evils of illegal gambling, The Gazette's story reports that, "Paula K. Kelley, 37, of Cedar Rapids, pleaded guilty Monday to aiding and abetting an illegal gambling business, admitting that she rented space and put phone service in her name for a sports betting and parlay card bookmaking group."

Thank goodness that operation's been shut down. We wouldn't want our kids living in a state where gambling was going on now, would we -- especially if it's a gambling operation that's not making campaign contributions to our upstanding political candidates.

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