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Posted at 1:10 PM ET, 11/19/2010

Sink riverboat gambling in Virginia

By Peter Galuszka

There's a movement afoot in the Old Dominion to bring in riverboat gambling to help rescue transportation finances.

Let's hope it springs a leak.

Norfolk City Councilman Paul Riddick thinks that bringing in water-borne gambling palaces would be a great way to boost the state's transportation budget, which is short upwards an estimated $100 billion to do all it needs to do over the next 15 years. He's pushing to have the idea taken up by the General Assembly, which will meet in less than two months.

It's the latest in a series of schemes to raise money without raising taxes. Gov. Robert F. McDonnell's plan to generate revenue by privatizing ABC stores, however, has been on a bit of a bender and is seen as going nowhere.

Virginia can save itself a lot of grief if it avoids boosting gambling beyond the horse races. Look at Maryland, which held a constitutional referendum two years ago to allow slot machines.

Maryland's plan, which was backed by Gov. Martin O'Malley, might bring in money but it has also brought a lot of baggage. To quote Citybizlist Baltimore, "no single issue in memory in Maryland has engendered more lobbying money, public rallies, legislative hearings, arm twisting, bill printing, press reporting and hot air than slots gambling."

This is exactly what Virginia can expect if Riddick's idea brings floating gambling hells to the industrial Elizabeth River or the Chesapeake Bay. After the run up (or run down) to privatizing ABC, it's all Virginia needs.

My view is that people should do what they want with their money, but gambling is a sure-fire way to lose it. As The Virginian-Pilot notes, quoting finance magnate Warren Buffett, "gambling is a tax on ignorance."

What's more, one wonders where the market would be. West Virginia allows gambling and the once tony Greenbrier resort has recovered from sure demise by becoming a casino. Atlantic City isn't that far away. Maybe new gamblers would come up to Norfolk from the tobacco fields and swamps of Eastern North Carolina. And there's always a criminal element that pops up, like yard moles, when gambling is around.

In any event, riverboat gambling is a bad idea that comes with a lot of bad stuff. I hope it doesn't float.

Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon's Rebellion. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Peter Galuszka  | November 19, 2010; 1:10 PM ET
Categories:  Baltimore, Chesapeake Bay, HotTopic, Local blog network, Maryland, Va. Politics, Virginia, crime, economy, media, recreation, slots, sports, taxes  
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So, by your convoluted logic, Virginia can 'save' itself by allowing Virginians to spend their money in other states. Let me guess, you live in Maryland or West Virginia. You are truly an idiot!

Posted by: curious606 | November 20, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse

The Greenbrier hasn't recovered by building a small casino for "guests only." It will recover when "day" gamblers are allowed to use the facility, as is being done on Thanksgiving. It's hard to fill hundreds of room in this economy when there are so many alternatives that are closer, more convenient and less pricey.

Posted by: carolineC1 | November 23, 2010 6:46 AM | Report abuse

Your analysis of the issue is flawed. You are correct when you state that "people should do what they want with their money, but gambling is a sure-fire way to lose it." If that is so, are you condemning horse racing in the commonwealth? How about attending sporting events and my subscription to Direct TV? Tobacco and alcohol consumption? Trip taking? Movies? The state lottery? Oh, god forbid, the all mighty bingo? My point is, they're all personal vices that augment the human experience, but none of them are vital to our existence. We gain pleasure from them but can do without them. Gambling is but one of many social outlets people enjoy, and regardless of whether or not it is a smart venture, it's up to the individual to decide if it suits their lifestyle.

Your snide remark about where the new gamblers would come from is disingenuous at best. It's safe to assume that gamblers in SE Virginia (you know, the ones who flood Delaware and WV) would spend their money locally. It's also safe to assume that commuters from urban areas such as Richmond, Raleigh, Durham, etc. would flock to Norfolk.

Put this to a referendum vote and you'll be surprised how much traction it will receive. There's no point in sending all of our hard earned cash to surrounding states who care not how they obtain it to suit their needs.

Posted by: sahintepe | November 23, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

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