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Tragedy and Personal Responsibility

27 October 2004

Last week, following the Boston Red Sox's victory over the New York Yankees, tragedy struck in Boston when a 21 year old college student was hit by a pepper gas projectile fired by police to disperse the crowd. Some 60,000 to 80,000 people took to the streets to celebrate the victory, and police have said that they were attempting to disperse the crowd because some individuals were setting fires and vandalizing property. The police arrested eight people in connection with the event.

As this story unfolded last week, I tuned into my favorite sports radio media personality to hear his take on the tragedy. Instead, I heard a lengthy diatribe on the evils of casino gaming springing from a Detroit News report on a former Detroit area athlete. Now, from my review of the News article, I did not see any reference to the individual involved gambling at local casinos. (There were reports of credit from an out of state casino.) Yet, the local radio host took the opportunity to indirectly blame the Detroit casinos by noting that he "told" us all what would happen if casino gambling is authorized in the City of Detroit.

The irony struck me. Can you imagine what the media spin would have been if the Red Sox's tragedy had occurred outside a casino? In such situations in the past, every myth and distortion about the industry has been rehashed. Interviews with reverends opposed to gambling have been common, together with the results of unscientific studies suggesting that if you even look at a casino, you will be a life-long addict. Gambling opponents use these opportunities to spread their false and misleading data because they know that it wouldn't withstand scrutiny in a dedicated news article. All too often, the media plays along because such information helps to spur controversy and liven up the story.

None of the news pieces I saw on the Red Sox's tragedy blamed the Red Sox. Although Boston's Mayor suggested a ban on alcohol for the World Series games might be appropriate, he later backed away from this concept. After all, the tragedy wasn't the fault of the Red Sox, and it wasn't the fault of the vast majority of fans who know how to act responsibly. It was the fault of some irresponsible knuckleheads coupled with some acknowledged mistakes by the police.

Both Major League Baseball and casinos provide entertainment options to their customers. Last year, an additional two million people visited a casino over 2002, reflecting a significant jump in the popularity and societal acceptance of this form of entertainment. In addition to visiting casinos in greater numbers, Americans continue to show strong support for casino gaming. Polling conducted for the American Gaming Association ("AGA") by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc., and The Luntz Research Companies found that more than 80 percent of those surveyed believe casino gaming is acceptable for themselves or others - a figure that has remained consistent throughout the past five years. This acceptance is seen in all age groups, income brackets, U.S. regions and at all levels of religious participation.

Americans - especially those most familiar with casinos - are broadly supportive of the industry's responsible gaming efforts as well. According to the polling results, 91 percent of casino visitors and 69 percent of residents living within 10 miles of a casino say the industry is doing a good job eliminating illegal or underage use of its product. Two-thirds of all Americans agree the casino industry is doing a good job in this area.

"Our polling clearly shows that most Americans not only feel casino gaming is an acceptable form of entertainment, they also acknowledge - and appreciate - efforts by the industry to be good corporate citizens and to be part of the solution to disordered gambling," Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., president and CEO of the AGA, said in a press release issued in connection with the study.

Unfortunately, all segments of the entertainment industry from time-to-time experience tragedies in connection with their operations. Too often, the tendency is to look for the biggest target to blame. All too often, casinos serve as this big target, and such tragedies provide gambling opponents with their best opportunities to get their false data into the mainstream media.

The truth is that most of these tragedies are the result of the same cause - a lack of personal responsibility by the individuals who have caused them. Wouldn't it be nice if our society could get out of this "blame the big target" mentality and return to a focus on personal responsibility?

Horse Racing Loses Key Figure

The Michigan horse racing industry lost a key figure this week with the passing of Dominick Marotta. Mr. Marotta was involved in the Thoroughbred industry from 1951-1976 as a trainer and owner of horses. Then, from 1978 through the mid-1990s, he was involved in the harness industry on many fronts. Dominick and his brother Frank designed, built and operated first Sports Creek Raceway and later Muskegon Raceway (which is now Great Lakes Downs). The Marotta brothers also designed Hoosier Park before Churchill Downs bought them out. His impact on the growth of the industry was very significant and has left a living legacy that will endure.

David Waddell
David Waddell is an attorney for Regulatory Management Counselors, P.C. (RMC), which assists businesses in navigating the legislative, regulatory and licensing systems governing Michigan’s commercial and tribal casino industries. He is the co-author of The State of Michigan Gaming Law Legal Resource Book and one of the founders of The Michigan Gaming Newsletter.

David Waddell Websites:

www.michigangaming.com
David Waddell
David Waddell is an attorney for Regulatory Management Counselors, P.C. (RMC), which assists businesses in navigating the legislative, regulatory and licensing systems governing Michigan’s commercial and tribal casino industries. He is the co-author of The State of Michigan Gaming Law Legal Resource Book and one of the founders of The Michigan Gaming Newsletter.

David Waddell Websites:

www.michigangaming.com