Most everyone has at least heard something about the recent dust-up over slot machines in the VFWs and other veterans clubs.
It seems as though the state of Delaware was fine with looking the other way for quite some time, while the vet clubs were taking in thousands of dollars off of what can only be described as, illegal gaming machines.
It seems as though no one cared that these organizations were breaking the law by having these machines in their clubs and using them to raise money and paying out winnings to their members, which was clearly against the law.
That was until Gov. Jack Markell decided that it was time to shut them down. The clubs and organizations received letters stating that they would have to remove the machines immediately, or face prosecution and punishment.
This led to an outcry from both the organizations and the community, how dare the state and the Governor dare to enforce a law that they had ignored for ten or more years? How dare they hold the veterans to the same standard of the law that they held everyone else to?
I actually heard some people say that the state should just go back to the way it had been, in other words, ignore the law and those who were breaking it.
If this had been some immigrant who owned a gas station with these machines, would there have been the same reaction? I doubt it. It is obviously due to the fact that it involves veterans, that accounts for the fact that many of the same people who would normally be demanding that the law be exercised equally, would now be in favor of not only an exemption, but out right calling for the law to not be enforced.
Let me first say that I am against any exemptions of any law. For a law to have any effect, to have any real meaning, then the law must be enforced upon society in an equal manner upon all its citizens, otherwise the law is meaningless.
So if there is a law that says these machines can only be placed at the three racinos run by the state, (oh! I am sorry, I meant regulated by the state), of Delaware, then that should be the way the law is enforced.
If on the other hand some feel that the law gives unfair advantage to one group or against another, then it is correct to work to change the law, which is what the veteran organizations have done, with the backing of the community they have lobbied the Delaware legislators to do just that.
That is where we are now, the Delaware legislators have passed a three-month stop-gap bill that buys them and the vets time for the legislators to come up with a permanent solution, one that I am sure will look a lot like the three-month stop-gap bill.
Basically the bill states that the vet organizations can keep the machines in their clubs, the machines will be mandated to pay out between 50 and 70%, of the proceeds left, the clubs will be mandated to pay 45% to the state. Unlike the machines at the three race track casinos who have a mandated payout of 89% at a 45% tax rate. I make no claim to be good at math, but to me this seems to me to mean that the state will take a larger cut of the overall proceeds from the vet clubs than it currently takes from the state-run (oh! I did it again, I mean regulated by the state) casinos. The state will also decide who the venders will be who supply the machines and they will be tied into the state Lottery system.
So, what has the state of Delaware gotten from now enforcing the law?
Well first of all it has gotten the respect of those who believe that the law must be enforced in an equal manner, not based on emotions and special interest considerations.
Beyond that what the state has gotten is another flow of revenue, the state will now be able to use this stream as another projection towards balancing the budget. Let us never forget that the state of Delaware has a constitutionally mandated balance budget amendment. Of course this is the biggest lie in all of government, because the way in which the state balances its budget is to first decide how much it wants to spend on all of the different programs and agencies, it then has to come up with the matching funds, or revenues.
The way this is done is to first look at the more reliable revenue streams, such as income taxes and corporate taxes and any other form of taxes that from year to year are little changed. Of course since government grows every year without fail, there is always a short fall between the revenue stream and the expenditures, so how does the state fill this gap?
Why with projections of course! And the most seductive form of projections in recent years for the state of Delaware has been gambling revenue. These projections are such a favorite of law makers because there is really no way to determine how much people will or will not gamble in any given year. At best the state can only hope to hold to the previous year’s rate, but of course since the cost of government goes up every year, so must the revenue projections.
The only way this is possible is to constantly increase the amount of gambling within the state. Delaware has continued to do this by adding more and more types of gambling, from slots to table games, from sports betting to now keno. The state is running out of types of gambling that it can constitutionally run,( damn! did it again, REGULATE), so they are now going to begin looking to expand who can legally be involved in getting the state’s product out to the people in a hope of expanding the number of people who will throw their money into the rat hole of state-run gambling,(Oh! hell, let’s face it the state of Delaware runs gambling in the state of Delaware).
The veteran’s organizations are simply the next step in this experiment of expanding gambling beyond the casinos. We have seen sports betting in bars, we are now seeing keno in any number of locations, and now we will have state sanctioned gambling in private clubs. And the best part for the state? These organizations demanded that they be allowed to be controlled by the state.
These groups are populated by people who are also some of the same people who have been politically active in recent years, they have been vocal in pointing out the ever-expanding government and the tax burden that goes along with it, yet they took no time to consider the ramifications of their actions in demanding that the state allow them to keep these slot machines.
The fallout from this for these organizations and the rest of the state could be extremely negative.
These groups will now fall under the regulatory arm of the state of Delaware, this means that they will be mandated on every aspect of the operation of these slot machines, and one has to wonder how the state will be able to expand just what that will cover? Will it for instance in the future mean that the state will be able to mandate certain aspects of how the vets spend their take of the proceeds? Will for instance the state be able to mandate that these groups must spend equal amounts in their charitable spending on diverse groups? Say if an organization gives to an all boys team, will they be mandated to give an equal amount to an all girls team? Or will there be mandates on percentages spent on minorities?
These are all things that the vets have not considered. They were in such a hurry to cry foul at being held to the same standard as everyone else that they did not consider the end game here for the state, that being to create another revenue stream and to control it as the state controls all gambling in this state, with an iron fist.
The main fallout for the vet groups will be a loss of independence, ironic, seeing as they fought to protect independence for the rest of us and they did not simply give it away, they demanded that it be taken from them.
There will also be political fall out from this as well. By Gov. Markell’s move on this, he has positioned Republicans between the dog and the hydrant. Delaware Republicans in general, and Sussex Republicans in particular have been historically opposed to expanding gambling within the state. What this case does is it puts Republicans in the position of either continuing to oppose gambling and in doing so, opposing veterans, or Republicans would have to reverse their position on gambling to be able to be seen as supporting the veterans.
Since the stop-gap bill has already passed that is in the past. In the coming three months I would recommend to the veteran’s organizations that they reconsider their position on this. I would recommend that they take the time to seek other forms of revenue that would allow them to maintain their independence as a non-profit organization.
I would suggest that any Republican who supported the stop-gap bill also reconsider their position. I feel that any who have opposed the expansion of gambling have been on the right side of that issue, not because of any of my personal faith beliefs, but because government should not be in the business of, well that pretty much says it, government should not be in any business.
This issue is not and never has been about the veterans, though certain opportunistic politicians have played this to their advantage coming out with this stop-gap bill in an attempt to make it seem as if they are on the side of the vets. This couldn’t be further from the truth. This bill is not intended to help the vets, it is intended to enslave these organizations to the state. They will become little more than satellites of the casinos, they will lose their ability to make certain decisions for themselves and they will no longer represent the veterans who are their members, but will have become another branch of the government growth that so many of them have stated an opposition to.