aNUTTER failure

Although Chicago rivals Philadelphia in corruption — the Windy City is opposed to casinos and yet was able to transform their waterfront and garner national attention without gambling. Even in tough economic times Chicago’s notoriously corrupt Mayor Daley is clear on his views about casinos in Chicago. He recently held a press conference to dispell any rumors that sites identified for Chicago's Olympic bid might now be developed into casinos ....

MAYOR DALEY: “I don’t know why everybody is going around thinking that casinos are the answer to all the problems of society”
REPORTER: “So no way, no how?”
MAYOR DALEY: “I would be against it completely”

Pennsylvania Supreme Court upholds a gambling free for all

Breaking news from the AP wire:

Pennsylvania's highest court says a ban on political campaign contributions by casino owners and executives is unconstitutional. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the ban violates the state constitution's guarantee of free speech. . . . The ban was touted as a major bulwark against the political influence that the lucrative gambling industry can exert over policymakers.

The Supreme Court noted in its opinion that the ban on political contributions was overly broad. In writing for the majority, Chief Justice Ron Castille suggested other alternatives:

"While the ban on political contributions does further the compelling state interest in avoiding the appearance of corruption in the oversight of the gaming industry, Section 1513 is not narrowly tailored," Castille wrote. "A statute that limited the size of contributions, rather than absolutely prohibiting any contributions, would be more narrowly drawn to accomplish the stated goal."

That’s what they did in Maryland, so how’d that turn out?

Rendell, gambling, and the politics of fear - Part Deux

And so we’re back here again:

Harrisburg is losing patience. Rendell yesterday said that he was "disappointed" that the city's two casinos are not open. Rendell added that he would have to "weigh very heavily" any legislation proposed to strip Philadelphia of gaming-tax benefits.

Or in case you didn’t hear him clearly enough:

Foxwoods Lurches East?

The bestest, most well-planned casino in the history of the whole wide world is now prepared to lurch three blocks further east:

The partners behind the Foxwoods slots parlor could shift their plan for a downtown Philadelphia casino from one end of the Gallery at Market East to the other.

The investors' group is eyeing empty floors at the former Strawbridge & Clothier store at Eighth and Market Streets, Foxwoods spokeswoman Maureen Garrity confirmed last night.

The partners' current plan is to convert two floors of the Burlington Coat Factory store at 11th and Market Streets into a 3,000-machine slots parlor.

It is unclear why they now are looking at alternative space. One observer said it might be easier for Foxwoods to move into the Strawbridge building, the lower three floors of which are empty. Putting the casino there would not require relocating a major tenant such as Burlington.

Maybe they should go just a little further and build it on top of the Constitution Center. The slots can all be revolutionary war-era themed, too. And the guy who plays Ben Franklin can wander around and tell the senior citizens spending their social security checks that "a quarter played is a quarter taxed."

When My Worlds Collide (Subtitle: Or maybe Jim Kenney's Conspiracy Theory is Right)

(You can read a more straightforward version of this cross-posted in the brand new Philadelphia Public School Notebook blog which launched today on a new website delivering education news and comments by Philadelphia’s education activists.)

When I first read City Councilman James Kenney’s comments in the press blaming anti-casino activists for their Machiavellian tactics in hijacking the library campaign and seeking to upset the balance of power in city government, I initially thought "Huh? I entertain good conspiracy theories as much as the next person, but really . . . . "

But recent news about Pennsylvania’s efforts to link casinos and education has me wondering about how my different worlds as an education activist and at Asian Americans United are now colliding. So I'm now developing my own insane conspiracy theory – the Evil Plot To Use School Funding As The Basis To Justify Gambling and To Tie School Funding to Pennsylvania’s Ability to Generate Gambling Revenue Theory of the World.

Here’s the connections:

  • Greco, as the Governor knows, serves on the board of the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, landlord of the Gallery shopping mall, which is now in negotiations to lease to Foxwoods Casino.

Now I have nothing against Rosemarie Greco, who is by all accounts an august citizen of the city, but it’s a curious set of coincidences nonetheless. And hence my own Kenney-esque conspiracy theory: One could argue (as he did) that these are the same set of folks wanting to push gambling, and that like those pesky anti-casino activists manipulating the library issue (Kenney: "They're [anti-casino activists] using libraries because everybody likes libraries."), here we have casino proponents manipulating the education issue.

Could it be a plant to usurp educational goals with gambling ones?

Helen's Op-Ed in the Inquirer

Great Op-Ed in the Inquirer today, courtesy of Helen Gym:

There's something ironic about the use of the term casino culture to describe the recent Wall Street meltdowns. Everyone is lambasting our desire to gamble on high-risk deals with little public oversight.

Ironic because, virtually overnight, we're looking at a casino on Market East - the very heart of our city - and "casino culture" might be a fair characterization of how public officials are handling the decision to move Foxwoods from its planned waterfront location.

Legislation has been introduced to rezone Market East to a casino district even though there's no state gaming license for the site, no proposal, no impact studies, no cost assessments, and no design concepts. The waterfront communities had 16 months to review plans before the Planning Commission would even hear Foxwoods' proposal. For Market East, the Planning Commission will hold its first hearing Tuesday and the public has nothing to review.

Read the rest here.

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