The battle for gaming in Rockingham County yields some interesting insights.
Our county leaders are interested in economic growth for our county. Apparently we are one of the poorest counties in the state. Something needs to help us address our poverty.
The Rockingham County commissioners listen to important voices. I spent significant time on the phone recently with a commissioner who graciously returned my call. He listened to what I had to say, but seemed unpersuaded by my points. It seems that our commissioners at least listen to their constituents.
The commissioners also listen to the voices of businesses. The gaming industry promises only rainbows and high paying jobs. They promise ancillary businesses providing food, shopping, and entertainment. There's no corruption or vice to see here. All the money flooding in from the region will only do good things.
Hundreds of No Casino signs litter the highways and neighborhoods of Western Rockingham. I have not seen one sign supporting the casino. (Unless you count the few anti-casino signs painted up with graffiti.) The pro-casino lobby actually doesn't need any signs. They have the ears of the people in power. Nothing gets attention like dollar signs.
Our leaders may not benefit personally from the gaming industry. But the windfall of tax revenue will give our leaders much more money to control. With the control of money comes greater power. There may be a few politicians who don't want more power, but only a few.
Our commissioners hear thousands of voices against gaming and a few, well placed, voices promising revenue. Money talks.
We can rest assured that our commissioners are only doing what is best for us. We may think that the gaming industry brings trouble, but we will have to trust their wisdom. They know what we need more than we do.
And if they are wrong? If gaming brings a blight of noise, pollution, sketchy business, and corruption, fueled by greed and selfishness that forever remakes the entire culture of our community--then what? That could not possibly happen, right?
Our leaders also realize that we must act now. We cannot wait to rezone. The urgency demands fast, decisive action, so that we don't miss this opportunity. There's no time to get more public input. There's no time to study the long-term effects of casinos. There's no time to consider the harm that gaming might do to the poor. Those studies have already been done (apparently) and there is actually no harm whatsoever to anyone. There is only good to come from gaming.
In fact, we can soon teach our children that risking money at long odds is a great way to be entertained, and possibly become rich. What better values can we instill in our kids?
Gaming is so innocuous that our State Legislature is willing to make it legal. But only in three or four counties. This shows that gaming is not good for some counties, but absolutely essential for the poor ones. Has anyone wondered why they are not considering legalization of gaming for the entire state?
Furthermore, why has gaming been illegal for centuries in NC? Were our forbears too prudish? Were they blind to the benign nature of gaming? What could they have been thinking? Now our enlightened leaders have seen the light. They are leading us into the Promised Land of opportunity, blessing, and prosperity. And in a matter of months, we can undo the foolish, prudish, unenlightened tradition of NC. We get to vote--well, not us but our representatives--on what is good. With a simple vote we can make gambling good. None of the supposed ills associated with games of chance will come our way, because we--or our representatives--now know that gaming is good.
Our community's rural culture and way of life is at stake. Our leaders seem willing to wager that gaming will change everything for the better. Do you see the chips they are shoving into the jackpot? They are betting with our lives. They are risking it all because they are so wise.
May God have mercy on us. It doesn't look like our leaders will.