Tuesday, November 28, 2006

To Gov Rendell: Veto the Free Drink Policy for Casinos

A bill is before Governor Rendell that gives the casinos the option of providing free drinks to its patrons.

I think it would be better for Pennsylvania if the bill was vetoed. It should not come about. I would not have voted for the bill if I was in either the PA Senate or PA House.

The gambling casinos are coming. They need to act like the other establishments in our communities. It is not legal to use booze as an incentive for any operation. I would not want it to be legal for casinos.

The competitive forces that are at play in this bill is beteen the casinos and the rest of the community. Not the casino in West Virginia (and there are no free drinks in W.Va casinos) or Las Vegas and those in Pennsylvania.

This is a bill about the LCB (liquor) and not a rider on the gambling legislation.

The bill is bad on principle. It is bad for small business. And, the bill is bad in terms of governmental operations. The legtislative process for this bill is suspect, to say the least.

The members of the PA House and PA Senate, and executive branch, have been drunk on gambling money for some time. The PAC money from gambling has flowed into their slush funds for years while the gambling bills were drafted. Now, these folks in Harrisburg want to get drunk again, but this time on the stipulation of free drinks within the casinos.

There was "little or no public comment" on the bill before it was approved by the House and Senate. The bill has become the latest in the long list of last-minute legislation that hurts the commonwealth. It was added as an amendment to a bill making changes in the state liquor code and didn't receive three separate days of hearings in the House and Senate. This is required by the state constitution.

People on the South Side are worried about the traffic patterns with the new casino that could open in Station Square. We might wish for bumper-to-bumper traffic throughout our streets if all the patrons depart with a drunken state due to the free drinks. At least they'll be going so slow we'll be able to dodge some of them. Or, arrest them.

Why give free liquor between the hours of 7 am and 2 am? If I was able to, I'd say that the free drinks can happen from 2 am to 10 am. Then there would be some peace in the neighborhoods. And by 10 am, we'll be able to have all the police picking up the drunks as they exit the parking lots.

As it stands now, the drunks are hitting the streets when there isn't any mass transit. And, it is impossible to hail a cab.

The Libertarian in me said that free drinks should not be restricted. Rather, allow for any business to offer free drinks anytime. Why should some have to curb all free drinks while others get the right?

But, if you give away free drinks, you can't tax them.

The huge amounts of money that has flowed to the Mohegan Sun in its early days of operation proves that there is no need for 'free drinks' to make these places a success.

Rendell has until Saturday to decide whether to veto the bill.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Friday, November 24, 2006
Of The Patriot-News

After the year's house-cleaning elections, legislative leaders vowed
to change their ways and conduct the people's business more openly.

But this week's late-night session that included an unexpected vote
to allow casinos to serve unlimited on-the-house drinks has
government reform advocates questioning the veracity of that vow.

"They lied," reform activist Eric Epstein said. "These guys have not
learned a thing."

"It did not jibe with the spirit of those who want a more open and
transparent process," said Matt Brouillette, president of the
Commonwealth Foundation, a Harrisburg conservative policy center.

Spokesmen for House and Senate leaders challenged those assertions.

They said the Legislature has demonstrated that it learned a lot from
the fallout of last year's middle-of-the-night pay raise vote that,
although since rescinded, contributed to the turnover of about a
fifth of the General Assembly's 253 seats.

For one thing, lawmakers considered only a fraction of the number of
bills that were voted on in the final days of past legislative
sessions, they said.

Both chambers completed their work before midnight, although House
Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said the House cut it close with
its adjournment at 11:07 p.m. Tuesday.

Miskin also said that no major issue came out of the blue, including
the bill to let casinos serve free drinks.

"That has been discussed in one sense or another this entire session
when we talked about gambling reform," he said.

However, some groups that stay attuned to liquor code changes,
including the state's Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter, said
they were caught off-guard.

Senate Republicans blamed Democrats for slipping the measure into a
bill that was to be voted on right before senators made their way out
the door.

"Our caucus as a whole was not enthusiastic about taking it up, but
the Senate Democrats insisted on offering it," said Erik Arneson,
chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader David "Chip" Brightbill, R-

Senate Democratic spokeswoman Teresa Candori chuckled at that comment
because Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Senate. "If we could
force them to do things they don't want to do, the state would be in
a lot better shape," Candori said.

Sen. Patricia Vance, R-Cumberland, who opposed the free drinks bill,
called the timing and legislative maneuvering that brought the issue
to a vote "abominable."

"If one wants to rehabilitate the image of the Legislature, that's a
very poor way to do it," Vance said.

Government reform activist Tim Potts said, "If they were conscious
about the need to reform, there would not have been a lame-duck
session in the first place."

The onus is now on Gov. Ed Rendell to veto the legislation, just to
make a point about the need for the General Assembly to put its
political reform rhetoric into action, Potts said.

Rendell has taken no position on the bill, spokeswoman Kate Philips

The Legislature sent another signal in the post-election session that
convinces some activists that it is ignoring demands for reform.

Each chamber installed lawmakers who supported the pay raise into its
top post as well as in each party's caucus leader slot.

"It's just outrageous," Epstein said. "The message this sends to the
voters is: Screw you."

The Senate GOP leadership election bodes well for future reforms,
Arneson said. The new leaders are developing an agenda of more
reforms, he said.

As for those already made, he noted the enactment of a lobbyist
disclosure law to allow the public to monitor the spending of those
attempting to influence policy-making.

He said the Senate also has begun posting the text of its debates on
its home page, www.pasen.gov, eliminated new contracts for leased
cars and implemented health insurance premium contributions for
Senate employees.

Miskin said the House's recent reforms include immediately posting
daily summaries of its actions on the House Web page,
www.house .state.pa.us, posting the text of its debates online and
adjourning before midnight on most session days.

"There's been a lot of things we've done," Miskin said. Government
reform activists "are just ignoring the actions we've taken just to
keep the issue alive."

Epstein said they have not ignored anything. They haven't seen enough
to prove lawmakers got the message voters sent, he said.

"Apparently, we don't have to worry about these guys stealing our
political reform platform," Epstein said.

JAN MURPHY: 232-0668 or jmurphy@patriot-news.com