Bingo bill a bad idea
Published 6:03 pm Thursday, April 15, 2004
Though there continues to be signs of a recovering national economy, our state's finances are in a mess, and Atmore is not safe from Montgomery.
A projected budget shortfall of $300 million means our legislators in Montgomery are looking for ways to generate more tax dollars.
One controversial bill would allow electronic gaming at the state's dog tracks, with the tax proceeds to fund education. Called "Bingo for books," the legislation is an amendment that would eventually go to a vote of the public if it passes the House of Representatives.
Without addressing the issue of gambling itself, we believe the bill is not a wise one for the state, and could bode ill for Escambia County's schools.
While taxes from such gaming could add dollars to education, there are no guarantees that the impact would be as much as estimated, and no guarantee that the money would be equitably distributed throughout the state.
It is certain, however, to line the pockets of dog track owners around the state, and it would likely pull gamers from the Poarch Creek Indian gaming facility right here in the Atmore area.
Though the proceeds of Poarch Creek gaming are not taxed, that money does stay here in our community in the form of jobs and shoppers at our local stores and it circulates through our local economy, which eventually does help our schools right here in Escambia County.
With the defeat of Gov. Bob Riley's tax proposals last year, the voters of this state sent a clear message that they don't trust Montgomery to wisely or equitably handle our tax dollars.
Certainly, the counties and municipalities with dog tracks would lobby vigorously to keep as much of those tax dollars in their own school systems.
Back-room deals, retribution and unbalanced exchanges are old games in politics, and they've been played with a master hand on Goat Hill for decades.
There's no question that some legislators and dog track owners have viewed the Creek Indian gaming in this area as a thorn. With non-taxed gaming already existing here, Escambia County's schools could be left out in the cold when the time comes to distribute those proposed gaming taxes.
Tribal Chairman Eddie Tullis has publicly stated that he is ready to negotiate an agreement with the state over taxing some Indian gaming revenues, but has so far been ignored by the Governor's office.
Simply because legislation claims it is for education doesn't mean it's a good idea.
As of press time Tuesday, leaders on both sides of the House said they did not believe the measure would have enough support to pass and would likely not be brought up for debate.
But you can be certain, as long as powerful interests run the dog tracks and donate massive amounts of money to the politicians in this state, it won't be the last time we hear about increasing gaming at the state's dog tracks, and by extension, hurting an industry that contributes nearly directly to our own economy here in Atmore.
Go to the Atmore Advance web site at www.atmoreadvance.com and take our online poll on bingo for books.