“Most people would think it’s the wins that keep the gambler going, but any gambler knows this is not true. … [T]he best I’ve come up with is this: It is a particular moment. A magic moment that occurs after the placing of a bet and before the result of that bet. It is after the red dice are thrown but before they lie still on the green felt where they fall. It is when the dice are in the air, and as long as they are there, time stops. As long as the red dice are in the air, the gambler has hope. And hope is a wonderful thing to be addicted to.”
Despite the pesky, pervasive, and profitable persistence of illegal gaming in Alabama, nothing compares to the high-stakes games of chance found on Montgomery’s Goat Hill.
One suspects much of Alabama’s professional political class is addicted to pursuing the prospect of legalized gambling more than consummating the actual reality.
For a generation, the Alabama Legislature has pursued gambling legislation like a dog chasing its own fuzzy tail – bred for the chase with only a puppy’s hope of ever catching much of anything. Though the chase appears futile, can you really blame a dog in heat for getting a little frisky? Can you really blame politicians for pursuing a potentially prodigious source of power and money?
No. No, you can’t. It’s in their nature.
Whether concerning dogs or men, the seemingly unattainable will almost always be more alluring than a certain win. The promise of something elusive can often be more intoxicating than actually possessing something promised.
Even in practical politics, the allure of the unworkable can seem a worthy goal, especially when the risks of playing are so low, the purse so high, and the bid costs are little to nothing.
If every harvest season you could potentially buy up the whole orchard at a steal, why be content with just picking at low-hanging fruit year after year? If overseeing the entire orchard could potentially bring in $710 million in revenue annually, why not go for the gusto?
Gov. Gusto – aka Kay Ivey – seems to agree.
“This year, when Alabamians make their way to the ballot box, I hope they will be voting on another issue: Gaming,” Ivey said in her recent State of the State address. “I believe the current proposal being contemplated by the Legislature is good for Alabama, and I will be carefully watching it move through the process. It will crack down on illegal gambling, and it will responsibly regulate limited forms of legal gaming, including a statewide lottery. Thank you to Speaker Ledbetter and his leadership team for their hard work on this. Now is the time for Alabama voters to have another say on this issue.”
Maybe Gov. Gusto is right. Maybe Speaker Banjo is too. Maybe it is time Alabamians have a say on the gaming issue.
However, not everyone in Alabama is pleased with the idea.
The usual dogged opponents to gaming legalization — the Alabama Policy Institute, the Alabama Farmers Federation, and the Alabama Citizens Action Program — have all pooh-poohed the legislative push. Leaders of the Baptist church in Alabama have also come out against the proposed gambling bills, saying that expanding gaming in Alabama “would bring destruction and devastation to the lives of countless families.”
Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth also seems skeptical of the gambling legislation’s prospects. On a practical basis, he doesn’t see much movement currently in the Alabama Senate.
“My position on gambling is, I don’t think it’s going to solve our problems in Alabama,” Ainsworth recently told 1819 News CEO Bryan Dawson. “I’d rather just build an economy based on good-paying jobs, 21st-century jobs. I’ve had a position on the lottery: let the people vote if they wanted to. But again … I just haven’t heard much chatter on it.”
Ainsworth continued, “To get all those people on the same page and to get a bill they’re going to agree with is about impossible.” [Emphasis added.]
He’s right. Even if the usual opponents to gambling in Alabama were set aside, it remains true that chasing one’s own tail is “about impossible” – so impossible that you may even start to entertain the delusion that it’s really been the tail wagging the dog all along.
“This legislation is obviously the product of hard work. However, we have well-founded concerns about how it will affect our Tribe and our businesses in its current form,” the Poarch Band of Creek Indians recently told 1819 News. Even those already in the gambling business in Alabama aren’t fully sold.
Consider this the Tribe’s own “open bid” process.
Clearly, Alabama’s entrenched interests, both those for and against this latest Herculean labor, are more than willing to watch the political dice hang in mid-air, addicted to their hope in a perfect roll that will allow every dog in Alabama to finally have his day.
Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and is currently the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 12 p.m. – 3 p.m. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback, please email [email protected]. Follow him on X @TheJoeyClark or watch the radio show livestream.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected].
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