Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Idiot Tax

Gambling, the idiot tax. Many folks just can't see why gambling on Keno and other video gambling games would make any sense - especially here on South Padre Island. Sure, there have been rumors that a lot of the structures such as t-shirt shops were constructed just for such purposes. And yes there are folks that want big-time gambling in Isla Blanca and new developments ... perhaps with Tigua indians running virtual craps down by the Schlitterbaun ... gambling shacks on every corner ... there's lot's of hooey out there on the books. The last straw the broke the camel's back was a newspaper report that bills would be filed next week to do exactly this. What the heck would you think if the town you just were moving to just went berzerk for gambling?

So I got all in a dither and called my brother Matt over in Shreveport. Matt manages a good part of the Isle of Capri and has been in the casino business over 20 years. So I asked him for the straight skinny.

Basically,he says, a major casino will not move into a region unless it has full gambling, from 25 cent one-arm-bandits to unlimited stakes poker. Nobody [a big international casino] would ever come in for just Keno and some off-track betting, which are two of the really big losers. You need the rooms, the shows, the food, and the floor, says Matt. It's a big package deal, and there's nothing in between.

Then I popped the question: "Well, is your company considering a big move here in Texas?"

"Hell yeah," he sez, "I'd give us about 2-4 years unless you guys get a state income tax."

This about floored me. If we don't get a state income tax we'll end up with what Matt calls "the Idiot Tax." We talked about us moving down to SPI, the new house, and him coming down with his 24-foot boat for some fishing and then rang off.

Then I started to think about previous conversations I have with the old boy. Apparently the industry (as he calls it) used to be run by questionable mob influences but is now pretty much a straight-laced MBA thing. The problem are the politicians and lobbyists and developers who want to make tons of illegal kickback money on the deal, which can be over a hundred million dollars. In fact, these sorts are a continuing source of embarassment in places like Tahoe, Louisiana, and Atlanta. The inference was that the casino industry is pretty darned honest by itself; small operators such as bingo, Keno, and OTB "shacks" were the most likely to be corrupt. He didn't mention anything about his contacts in Texas, though. Smart guy, my bro'.

I tend to believe Matt in all these ponderings. It's a different perspective. What he told me was that either way, gambling would totally ruin the island.

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