Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Election Process…and Poker

I haven’t blogged in a while because (a) I spent a couple of weeks back in my ancestral home of Ann Arbor (MI) with family, and (b) the election.  And even though I was away from the keyboard, I opined plenty about the election.  Some of it was even electronic, and that pissed off my Facebook friends, so…I stopped that.

Still, I have plenty to say about the Election Process. Being a progressive, I can’t complain too much about the results, I guess, but I CAN complain about the process, and what better way to illustrate the failings of our national political system than…poker.
  • In a word - MONEY.
  • In two words - Special Interests.
  • In another two words - States Rights.
Let me explain the first two…

If you followed some of the down-ballot results from election night, you’ll see that it was a pretty good night for poker and gaming. Rhode Island voters allowed expansion at one casino into table games (poker and blackjack) while defeating a similar measure for another casino (local voters held the talking stick here).  In Oregon, two casino expansion measures lost, but in Maryland, a casino expansion measure won allowing for both table games at existing casinos, and a new (6th) casino in that state.

What’s illustrative for our discussion is that in Maryland and in Oregon, opposition came from casino interests.  To be sure, there were OTHER casino interests that were in FAVOR of the measure, but unlike years ago when it was the casino business versus the religious right, now it’s casino vs. casino; money vs. money; those who are already in vs. those who want a piece of the action. 

In Oregon it was the Native American casinos against the new non-Indian casino hopefuls; in Maryland it was MGM battling Penn National.  And in both cases, the winners spent more money.  Plain and simple as that.

Another ballot issue I was passionate about suffered similarly.  Polls have shown repeatedly that as many as 2/3rds of Americans want food containing GMO ingredients to be labeled, and California’s Prop 37 was designed to do just that; the first in this country to do so (GMO labeling is common in Europe, Asia…heck, most everywhere else).  Early polls showed this measure winning handily, but then gobs of money from Monsanto and Hershey for TV ads spelled its doom.  Bummer.

So money rules.  We knew that.  More than SIX BILLION spent on this election cycle, and truthfully, just to re-elect most of the incumbents.  As if we didn’t already know what most of them stood for.  Six billion to convince the undecideds?  You can’t tell me that $6 billion couldn’t be used for something else, like….I dunno, flood relief, or school improvements, or job creation, or…SOMETHING WORTHWHILE?

Enough of that screed…on to point three. 

I’ve lived in four states, and I currently enjoy living in Oregon where EVERYONE votes by mail.  No lines.  No problems.  No hanging chads.  I have voted previously by punch cards and machines (old and new).  I have waited in line (nothing like some of the folks I saw in Ohio).  I have been the only one in the building voting (like in the white neighborhood in Ohio I saw on TV).  The fact that every state has its own system and its own methods and its own process seems to work OK until it doesn’t.  Again, some districts were late in counting ballots.  Some had machine screw-ups.  If you look at voting in other countries, they don’t seem to have the issues we do.  And that’s because they have a national voting system.  We do it state by state.

And now we’re talking, finally, about legalizing poker, but again, it’s not a national system, but state by state. Nevada for Nevadans.  Maryland for Marylanders (or whatever they call themselves).  And so on.  Yes, horse racing and lotteries overcame the intrastate issue (pooled pari-mutuel betting and PowerBall).  But will/can poker do likewise?  Players won’t be thrilled with small populations and limited choices (see: PokerStars and Full Tilt).  Poker won’t experience the growth it had back in 2003-6 unless there’s a BIG (read: National/International) pool of participants.  That means legalizing poker on a national scale.

Is that possible with the current/new congress and Obama?  Time will tell, but someone should call for the clock.

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