Oklahoma’s Real Gamblers

By miller727@icloud.com March 6, 2016 Uncategorized 2 Comments

As I ran along Tulsa’s Riverside Drive this morning, the large illuminated sign in front of the River Spirit Casino flashed this startling announcement:

In February Our Customers Won $296,018,809

That number was so big I had to double-check the Casino website when I got home.  Yet, there it was again— nearly $300 million in winnings from one Oklahoma casino in just one month.

This equates to nearly $100 in winnings for every man, woman, and child in our state.

Extrapolate that total to a full year and you have over $3.5 BILLION in winnings. This is nearly what we spend for all public education each year in our state.

Even to Donald Trump, that number represents a whole lot of chips.

Here’s a little perspective. An average casino chip is 3.5mm thick and weighs 10 grams. Therefore, if you stacked 296 million one-dollar chips one on top of each other, the pile would weigh over 3,250 tons and extend over 642 miles into the air!

The unanswered question is how much River Spirit customers LOST gambling at the casino in February. I’m guessing this number is significant higher than $296 million.

Again, we’re talking about ONE casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

According to this article from the Las Vegas Review Journal, our nation’s Indian casinos brought in a staggering $28.13 billion in revenues in 2012. Oklahoma’s casinos were second only to California and experienced revenues of $3.7 billion during the same year.

Our state lottery brings in an additional $200 million in profits each year. This does not even begin to scratch the surface of the extent of gambling in our state, including online gaming, sports and para-mutual betting, and fantasy sports league sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings.

Suffice it to say that Oklahomans like to gamble. A lot!

All this being said, the biggest gamblers in Oklahoma are not the people spending thousands of dollars every month at Indian casinos, buying dozens of lottery tickets each week, and participating in high dollar fantasy sports leagues. In most of these cases, people are spending money they earned through their own hard work and (hopefully) can afford to lose.

No, the real gamblers in Oklahoma are the folks who are occupying these desks at 2300 North Lincoln Boulevard in Oklahoma City.

And our Governor and state lawmakers are empowered to gamble entirely with house money, or if you prefer, OUR money.

Over the past few years, our legislature has doubled down on a risky strategy of reducing state revenues while public schools and other state agencies struggle to make ends meet.

They don’t even bother to keep their cards close to the vest. They proudly lay their cards face up and claim to have the winning hand. The problem is their bets keep losing.

Too many in our legislature believe that the key to long-term financial stability is the continuation of corporate and individual income tax reductions; targeted subsidies and tax breaks to certain industries, and the slashing of state spending.

As the theory goes, these measures are supposed to make our state more attractive to out-of-state businesses. As a result, these corporations will bring billions of dollars of infrastructure investment and thousands of high paying jobs to Oklahoma.

A similar plan has worked so well for Kansas, right?

One would think our lawmakers might learn something from watching this tax-cutting plan go terribly wrong in a neighboring state.

It’s like sitting at the blackjack table and watching someone take a card with a hard 17 showing and busting. Yet, even after watching this person lose a bunch of money on a stupid play, we think we’re going to somehow have better luck. So, we double our bet and do the very same thing.

The bottom line is our lawmakers’ gambling habit does not appear to be working out very well for the people of Oklahoma.

Last week, we learned of a second revenue failure during the current fiscal year, which will cut an additional four percent from state budgets, on top of the three percent cuts from last month. We have not even begun to fully appreciate the potential impacts of next year’s $1.3 billion dollar budget shortfall on state agencies and public education.

Yet, when the dealer gives us a chance to reverse one of our bets (this year’s income tax cut), we wave our hand and say, “we’re good.”

Moreover, last month, when legislators simply discussed placing a two-year moratorium on some corporate tax credits, Governor Fallin admonished the Senate for its reckless behavior and stated a major aerospace company was considering cancelling future projects in our state. In short, the Governor told the legislature to stay the course.

So, here we sit, watching our state leaders drive our state into a ditch that may take us a decade or more from which to recover.

All we can hope for at this time is a lucky streak, like oil and gas prices doubling in the next six months. Barring that, the next few years will be brutal for our state.

I guess I just wish our lawmakers would stop gambling with our state’s future. They’re not gambling with plastic casino chips. Rather, they are wagering the future of our youngest citizens.

Maybe it’s time to fold their hold and get up from the table .  .  . before it’s too late.

But, that would require our state leaders admitting they made a mistake. Sadly, I don’t see our current group of compulsive gamblers changing their habits anytime soon.

This is just bad news that doesn’t seem to be going away.

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