OPINION . Man Overboard!

Public Speaking

The legislators had no answer. Maybe they should get one.

Published: Mar 2, 2011

Of the great classical arts � lute strumming, urn decorating and so forth � it's the fine art of oratory that most rouses Man Overboard! The carefully crafted speech, the finely honed argument, that's the stuff! And what oratory we had this week, as the House Gaming Oversight Committee heard testimony on a bill that would allow the revoked Foxwoods Casino license to be re-bid statewide.

Alan Greenberger, chairman of the city's Planning Commission, made known the city's readiness for a second casino. Asked if crime has been an issue at SugarHouse, Greenberger reported that police told him "there have been no serious issues at all [at] the SugarHouse Casino."

And what about "a noted pistol-whipping incident in the parking lot?" asked Committee chair Rep. Curt Schroder (R-Chester). "There was that one incident," Greenberger replied, "and there do not seem to be any others." Actually, the Inquirer reported that three criminal incidents at SugarHouse had preceded the pistol-whipping, and City Paper found its numbers wrong, too: When writer Holly Otterbein checked last November, police had reported 22 incidents.

Then there was Philly lawyer James DiVergilis, who testified to the benefits of bringing a second casino to Philadelphia because of, he explained, its "ethniticities." Yes: eth-ni-ti-ci-ties � a word a lesser man might have pronounced in four syllables � specifically, "the Slavic community and the Asians." When Rep. John Lawrence (R-Delaware) said he found "the profiling and targeting of particular ethnic groups extremely disturbing," DiVergilis answered sagely: "I agree with you."

Less cunning was the heartfelt testimony of Paul Boni, a board member of Stop Predatory Gambling, who used an oldie but goodie: the rhetorical question. Explaining his own opposition to "convenience" casinos everywhere, Boni said: "I'll put it to you in the form a question: What percentage of the revenue of Pennsylvania casinos is coming from gambling addicts and problem gamblers?" It's a question, as Boni pointed out, whose answer is known to the casinos: He noted that a Parx president bragged at an industry conference that most of the people in his database � anyone with a "loyalty card," that is � came three or four nights a week. "That's 200 days a year," Boni said. And yet it's a question for which the legislators before him had no answer. Maybe they should get one.

Yon Isaiah Thompson has a lean and hungry look. Write him at isaiah.thompson@citypaper.net.


We are watching with close interest from Australia. We share the same casino gambling industry, where the same old answers are dished up by casino gambling businesses, to fob off increasingly disturbing questions. When will the gambling industry wake up to the fact that the 'game is [almost] up'? Too many citizens have witnessed too many marriage break ups, too many divorces, too many neglected children, too many home losses, too many employee thefts, too many people jailed, too many businesses closed and too many people who have committed suicide! The list goes on!
Time to license casino gamblers...like weekend fisherman have to be! Time to give casino gamblers a record of their spending, in the hope that more casino gambling consumers might reign their spending in...before they lose the family house!
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