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January 16, 1977 - Image 3

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1977-01-16

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page four-
week in review
page five-books

Number 1

Editor: Stephen Hersh

Associate Editors: Ann Marie Lipinski, Elaine Fletcher\

January 16, 1977

Casino gambllng:

Tale of two cities-





The young husband stands ner-
vously before the roulette table,
looking as if he could really use
a drink. Badly in need of money,
he and his wife are wagering all
of their meager savings in hopes
of-winning big. A few spins of the
wheel later they are completely
cleaned out, their hopes crushed,
the husband virtually emasculated
by his failure.
Enter a mysterious stranger (in
a classic out-of-nowhere appear-
ance) who offers to help out the
stricken couple. He soon wins back
their money, along with a consid-
erable profit, and exits as casual-
ly as he entered, followed by the
wife's adoring eyes.
What sounds like a second-rate
scene from a low budget, made-for-
TV movie starring George Peppard,
is actually the first episode in
"Supergambler,'' a comic strip fea-
ture in the newly published Gamb-
ling Times, a slick monthly which
hopes to cash in on what it claims
is "fast becoming America's fa-
vorite pastime."
The publishers of Gambling
Times are not the only ones hop-
ing to make a killing off gambling's
increasing popularity. A number of
revenue-starved city governments,
convention - hungry chambers of
commerce, and hotel and restau-
rant owners stranded in decaying
urban areas are hoping for a slice
of the expected windfall. Move-
ments intent on legalizing casino
gambling are under way in a num-
ber of areas, including northern
New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylva-
nia, Florida, New York and Michi-
gan, where it is hoped that casinos
can help solve Detroit's fiscal and
unemployment problems. Atlantic
City, New Jersey, has already pass-
Tom O'Connell is a Daily Staff

ed a much-publicized measure to
allow legal gambling.
It may be only a matter of time
before Superman and Wonderwom-
an are eclipsed in our hearts by
the suave Supergambler. A recent
federal study found that 48 per
cent of the nation's adults patron-
ize commercial gambling, and 80
per cent indicate they favor legali-
zation of some form of gambling.
Although gambling in both le'gal
and illegal forms is on the rise,
the number of arrests for gambling
offenses has declined steadily over
the last 15 years. And the study
also found that people feel public
drunkenness, selling marijuana,
and pornography are all more seri-
ous problems than gambling.
It seems obvious that people are
willing to accept state lotteries,
church bingo and the Wednesday
night poker game. But are they
ready for the spread of casinos,
and will the legal casino work the
urban renewal miracles its backers
claim? Even more important to
people in Michigan is the question
of whether casino gambling can
really save Detroit. A number of
state and city officials are support-
ing the idea that jobs and tax reve-
nues generated by gambling could
be the key to solving the city's
problems. A long shot? Perhaps.
the issue was placed on the De-
troit area ballot as Proposition G,
in the form of an advisory ques-
tion designed to test public recep-
tiveness to the idea. But Proposi-
tion G went down to defeat, pri-
marily because of lack of funds
and organization on the part of
its backers. Some late adverse pub-
licity sealed its fate.
The measure was endorsed, how-
ever, by Mayor Coleman Young,
the City Council, the Detroit Po-
lice Officers Association and a
number of labor leaders. The is-


Atlantic City

De troit
control commission (with members
appointed by the governor) which
would make decisions as to who
could receive gambling licenses,
what betting limits would be in the
casinos, and even who would be
allowed to patronize them. The lob.-
byists termed the measure "the
toughest in the world" and said it
would have the power to freeze out
"undesirables." Goldstein pointed
out that the measure could in no
way keep the syndicate from. mov-
ing in on the burgeoning hotel
and liquor industries. Even today
he is still "certain organized crime
will be involved," but cannot say
to what extent.
Despite all the controversy that
raged right up to November 2, New
Jersey voters reversed the decision
they had made two years earlier
and voted in the casino gambling
measure. The effect on Atlantic
City was almost immediate, most
notably in the real estate busi-
ness. Land values in some ocean
gan an front areas doubled within a
nd TV month, and even plots of lowly
ia, re- marshland are now being touted
st New as potential casino sites. Today
e the most residents have chosen to push
as the aside worries about crime and oth-
atheir er problems and are looking for-
ward to what they believe will be"
d right, a deluge of dollars.
.t times
rents of THERE WAS A remarkable sim-
tequts- ilarity in the controversy gei-
e ques- erated by the casino gambling
y when measure approved in New Jersey
judge and the advisory question (Propo-
casino sition G) rejected in,_Michigan. The
Detroit Free Press, a highly vocal
opponent of Proposition G, sug-
at the gested that an increase in gamb-
almost ling would inevitably lead to an
zonal, increase in the crime rate. But
,ino in State Rep. Casmer Ogonowski (D
on was Detroit), the most strident support-
ver by er of the proposition, contended
a bit that, "In the opinion of man y,
to be- crime in Detroit will go down with
ambling legal casino gaming ... with more
mpt by people working there is less need
ish an ,
to commit crime for profit." Oth-
li dmpA er backers pointed out that casino

low income people can be expect-
ed to result in increased social
problems and an expanded need
for government services." Other op-
ponents also questioned the validi-
.ty of Ogonowski's figures.
Why, when the arguments pro
and con were so similar in each
case, was the gambling question
voted down in Detroit while at-
taining success in Atlantic City?
It may simply have been a mat-
ter of the degree of desperation
in each city. Of course the Atlant-
ic City measure was'- promoted
much more skillfully and received
much more favorable publicity. But
just as important is the fact that
in Detroit there is still the hope,
perhaps somewhat naive, that the
federal government can bail the
city out, perhaps with new pro-
grams to stimulate industry.
There is little that the govern-
ment can do for Atlantic City,
which relies so heavily on tourism.
Atlantic City has always been- a
carnival sort of town, self-reliant
and independent, and it is cut-
ting its own path toward survival.
The Free Press stated in a post-
election day editorial that passage
of Proposition G in Detroit "would
have been a virtual admission of
civic bankruptcy." Atlantic City is
past caring about such points of
It is a fact that casinos, will
create problems. The recent find-
ings of the Federal Commission on
the Review of National Policy To-
wards Gambling show that in Ne-
vada, where casinos are legal, 63
per cent of residents who earn
less than $5,000 per year gambled
as compared to 24 per cent nation-
ally. The incidence of compulsive
gambling is much higher as Well.
Atlantic City's situation is so bad
that perhaps casinos there are jus-
tified regardless of these facts. But
maybe Detroit should look for oth-
er alternatives before following At-
lantic City's lead. For example,
some cities in Connecticut, Rhode
Island and Florida allow betting
on games of professional "jai alai,"
an ancient Basque game somewhat
akin to tennis and handball. These

sue will almost certainly resurface
again in the near future. But for
now the eyes of friend and oppo-
nent alike are turned to Atlantic
City, where a difficult battle was
recently waged to get casino gamb-
ling legalized, -and where the re-
sults of that action are likely to
determine how legalized gambling
movements will fare in the rest of
the country.
If casinos there live up to even
a fraction of their backers predic-
tions, it would give a tremendous
boost to the campaigns of propon-
ents in other states.
Nestled in an expanse of marsh-
land on the south short of New
Jersey, Atlantic City is in many
ways a scaled down model of De-
troit. Here too, the white middle
class has left for the suburbs, de-
priving the city of its tax base.
Many businesses have followed suit.
And the remaining population con-
sists mostly of lower income black
families and elderly poor.
As Detroit is dependent on hea-
vy industry, so is Atlantic City de-
pendent on tourism. But industry
no longer comes to Detroit, and
the tourists no longer head for At-
lantic City. In its heyday during
the '40's and '50's they poured in
from Philadelphia and New York,
but now better highways and air
transportation draw them farther
south. In the last 15 years close
to one third of the city's hotel
rooms have closed down; long
stretches of its famous boardwalk
are lined with decaying, boarded-
up houses; amusement parks and
other tourist attractions are run
down and faded. The situation is
worst during the winter, when
many restaurants and businesses
close down, and once-stately hotels
like the Marlboro-Blenheim are in-
habited by a handful of pension-
ers, giving their lobbies the appear-
ance of half-empty geriatric wards.
RUT NOW, IF ONE is to believe
what many Atlantic City res-
idents say, an economic miracle is
in sight. Casinos will soon go into
operation, probably within the next
year and a half. And, according to
one city official, "We may have
just gotten a new lease on life."
Getting them wasn't easy. Only
two years ago a measure that would
have legalized casino gambling
throughout New Jersey was defeat-
ed in a statewide election, primari-
ly because of fears that gambling
operations would come under the
control of organized crime. To some
extent the fears were justified. New
Jersey has long been a Mafia
stronghold; in some areas public
officials seem to get indicted as
fast as they can be elected.
The defeat was a blow to At-
lantic City, but the people there.

Moting the idea. Weiner bed
advertising blitz on radio a
as well as in the, print med
lying on the theory that mo
Jerseyites would welcom
gambling revenues as long
casinosrweren't located in
Eventually he was prove
but only after what was a
a very bitter battle. Oppon
the measure went to court
tioning its legality, and th
tion was only a month awa3
a New Jersey Superior Court
finally ruled in favor of the
Then it was revealed th
lobby was being bankrolled
entirely by Resorts Interns
Inc., which owns a hotel-ca
the Bahamas. That operati
in danger of being taken o
the Bahamian government,
of news which led many
lieve that the casino ga
measure was simply an atte
a large corporation to estab
exploitable new market.
Backers of the measure c
that it would create 35,00

0 new

tax revenues could be used to hire


Atlantic City officials hope that casinos will help revive the once teeming boardwalk.

jobs, and that within ten years the
casinos would be generating $30
million a year in state revenues.
They also said that it would gen-
erate more than $800 million worth
of hotel, restaurant and house con-
struction in the city. The New Jer-
sey Council of Churches, which led
the campaign against -the casinos,
countered Eby stating that any fi-
nancial rewards would be out-

back laid-off police officers.
Ogonowski had proposed a bill
in the legislature which would al-
low gambling in up to six unspeci-
fied Detroit area hotels after 1980.
Whether or not the bill was ap-
proved in committee and came to
a vote on the House floor was to
be decided by 'the referendum re-
sults of Proposition G.
During the fall campaign Ogo-

cities have found jai alai to be
a popular way to create revenue
and bring in visitors without cre-
ating the freewheeling casino at-
The movement for casinos in
Michigan is far from dead. Rep.
Cgonowski has introduced a fresh
bill in the new legislative session
calling once again for legalization.
He feels the public was "misinform-

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