"Gambling crime is a non-issue. Look at all the security cameras they have at casinos." So goes the oft-heard argument of the pro-gambling crowd. But now this :
"A police officer who served as treasurer of the Lakewood Police Independent Guild was arrested Wednesday and charged with 10 federal felonies related to the alleged embezzlement of more than $120,000 from a fund intended to benefit the families of four Lakewood Police Officers who were killed in the line of duty in November 2009."
The officer is charged with using the money for "trips to Nevada and for cash withdrawals at various casinos. Some of the cash withdrawals were made at the Bellagio Casino in April 2010, and at the Hawks Prairie Casino in December 2010. The stolen money was just a portion of more than $3.2 million the public contributed for the benefit of the families of the murdered officers."
And yet gambling is touted by Lakewood officials as the "economic engine" driving the city. If true, and if this is indeed an isolated incident with said officer, then the "economic engine" just needs a tune-up given we've hit a bump in the economic road we're traveling as a city - lay-offs looming, admitted by Lakewood officials, as in part attributable to Lakewood gamblers staying home."
City officials say they (casinos) can be a terrific source of tax revenue and officials hope casinos will act as economic engines to the neighboring areas along Interstate 5. Not allowing them to open up would cause more troubles than letting them in" (Business Examiner, August 5, 2002).
"We've never had an entrance to Lakewood to give passers-by a reason to enter - at least for the right reasons," said Lakewood City Manager Andrew Neiditz at the introduction to the new program combining CSOs and Code Enforcement on March 17, 2010.
Well now we can.
Gaudy, blinking "Welcome-to-Las-Lakewood" grand entry lights along I-5 flashing on an in-your-face-blazing, where-the-party-never-ends, billboard beckoning passers-by to Gamble Here!
The recent Lakewood Chamber video, as opposed to the promo featuring a cannon blast, could more prominently show desperate-to-win gambling addicts having a blast - instead of burying the casino segment exactly 60 seconds into the four-minute-plus "Welcome to Our Town." Since the Chamber is on record as having supported dropping the tax rate on mini-casinos to 11 percent from the previous sliding-scale of 11 to 20 percent - the Chamber's directors saying in a letter to the council "that the sliding tax was unfair and singled out one industry"; and Neiditz having "proposed eliminating the sliding scale gambling tax and replacing it with a flat tax of 11 percent to make it easier to administer and to predict revenues" (TNT, March 14, 2007) - the Chamber directors certainly wouldn't now advocate a rate increase even with the current economic trend - would they? How could they with Great American Casino's past-chair of the Chamber still on the board of directors?
Certainly the Lakewood Police Independent Guild (with the exception of the treasurer) will support fellow city employees due to receive their pink slips, on a par with the defense of their own jobs for which they literally took to the streets during the gambling war of 2008 - won't they? Officers could give out tickets - discount tickets to frequent local discotheque/strip clubs which don't currently exist at the casinos but given the "can't legislate morality" mantra of at least one former Lakeowod city councilwoman, why not?
But here perhaps is where all of our efforts need to be focused if we are to save our city, or at least ensure we more quickly return to expanding government and gambling at the same time - lobbying the state legislature. There, rumor has it, buried somewhere in a larger budget package - as opposed to stand-alone gambling expansion bills which failed in each of three - of the last four - successive years in which they were contemplated in Olympia - is a proposal to install slot machines state wide, a measure which if passed would mean 600 one-armed bandits for Lakewood alone.
And what will Lakewood's Promise leadership do when this slot-machine gambling expansion bill does appear on the radar which it is expected to this legislative session? Especially when at least one director of this youth program went on record as supporting casinos in 2008 because slots were then non-existent? Will they capitulate with something catchy like "Help us reach more kids - support slots. Spend more at the casino!"
All sounds reasonable to me.