Flinn hits full house, Aces highState Senator Shea Flinn has proposed a bill that will generate anger and controversy among certain of my brethren in the conservative movement in Tennessee-and it is a State Constitutional Amendment that I fully support. Flinn's bill would amend the Constitution by amending the lottery amendment to allow for casino gaming. There are many who support reforms that would allow for casino gambling in Tennessee so that the Memphis area could have riverboat casinos that dock there. I have to admit that I support the amendment for far more selfish reasons, at least in theory.
Those who have read this weblog for a long time are very aware that I have been extremely critical of the gambling regulations in Tennessee where charity gaming rules are concerned. I have even been critical of Congressman Jimmy Duncan on the issue, and he is someone who I have a great deal of personal admiration for. I have come to see that the State will simply not ease the prohibitive restrictions on charity gaming unless there is a fundamental change in the Constitution itself. Under current Tennessee law, charitable groups may attempt get a one-time permit to operate a bingo game or other charitable gaming operation-but of course there is no guarantee they will get that permit. What's more, the cost of obtaining such a permit makes holding the one-time event cost-prohibitive, as a susbtantial amount of the profits are eaten up by the cost of the permit. Now, if the permit were a blanket year-long permit to allow for bingo or other charitable gaming to take place for a year so long as the organization can prove the money goes to charity, and the permit would need to be renewed yearly, that would be quite different, but the law does not allow for such latitude.
In earlier posts, I explained clearly why I favor the easing of gambling restrictions:
"Some reading may say: “Gosh Dave, Tennessee is a really conservative state and you Catholics are in a minority. A lot of the folks might be uncomfortable with bingo games and Monte Carlo nights going on in fraternal halls and churches all over the state.” That is a truism indeed and the Tennessee Knights respect both the law and the general public sentiment. However, the same laws that prevent profitable bingo also prevent profitable raffles, profitable sweepstakes, and other such cash or high prize drawings. Why do we need the kind of money these kinds of drawings might generate? We need it because the mission of the Knights of Columbus demands big time dollars. Tennessee Right to Life and the Special Olympics, two organizations the Knights traditionally support, do not run on pocket change. Neither do Catholic Charities or Catholic Relief Services, which we also support. As a result, we cannot run on rummage sale money."
"I realize that many of our evengelical Protestant brethren have a terrible aversion to amending our State's gambling laws. I could see maintaining this position in regards to State law if the lottery had not passed. Now that it has passed and is in effect, our State operates based on a double-standard: It is alright for the State of Tennessee to run a massive and multi-faceted gambling operation in which the money is supposed to go to education, but it is illegal for an organization which devotes the vast majority of its existing income to charity to run a regular raffle or bingo. I daresay that the Knights of Columbus are far better when it comes to charitable distribution than the State of Tennessee-our people are in the community addressing its needs each and every day."
It has occured to me over time that for our charitable gaming laws to be changed, there really is no way to do this without amending the Constitution itself, and there is no practical way to amend the Constitution to allow for one type of casino-style gambling without simply allowing for casino gambling in its own right. It will be practically impossible for the State to keep prohibitive charitable gaming laws on the books while allowing for casinos. Knowing that to be the case, I strongly favor this legislation. I urge the General Assembly to pass it by a large enough majority to place it before the people of the State of Tennessee in a referendum in 2010-and if it should fail before the people, let us keep trying until it passes.
I realize that I am in the minority on this issue and that my admitting that I am in favor of easing gambling restrictions (and that I would therefore vote to do so) may cost me votes in some future campaign. However, I have always operated under the premise that I would not hide the truth from the people that I might one day like to serve, and the truth is that I support easing gambling restrictions in Tennessee and if I have a chance to vote on this amendment, I will vote for it, and I will urge others to join me. It is time to end the lottery hypocrisy in Tennessee: The State should not have a monopoly on charity gaming, but the opportunity to use the bingo card and the raffle and the poker game to benefit some people in our society who can better be helped by charity of the heart than the hand of the State should be in the hands of charities and fraternal organizations all over the Volunteer State. We can do it a whole lot better than the State Lottery can.
Mark this down as historic, it is one of the few times I will agree with a liberal Democrat.
(Hat tip: Kleinheider)
Labels: Tennessee politics