Click HERE for the story that triggers this morning’s recollection and reflection.
Richard and I walk through the big doors of the giant casino. We’re there to pick up a charitable contribution from a casino. We enter the space between the big outside door and the big doors that lead into the vast space of cachinging slot machines.
I’m going through the second set of doors when I realize that Richard isn’t going in. He’s standing in the no man’s land between the two sets of doors. He’s frozen in his tracks.
“I can’t go in there,” he says. “I hate this place!”
“What’s happening? Why? What’s going on?”
“My wife’s in there. We’re broke. We’re losing our house.because of this damn place. Can’t pay the mortgage or the water bill ’cause she’s throwing our paychecks into a slot machine. I hate this place! I don’t want their —– money!”
Eventually we walk together through the doors. Richard points across the room. “That’s her,” he says. “Let’s go this way. I don’t want her to see me.” We go to the executive suite to pose for a photo-op with the casino’s executive. He hands us the blood money. “Smile,” says the casino photographer. I smile a disingenuous grin. Richard has too much integrity to sacrifice himself on altar of the golden calf.
The story of the mother who left her children in the middle of the night to head for the casino reminds me of that day years ago when we went to pick up the check that came from ripping off Richard’s wife and this latter victim of false hope.
The State of Minnesota considers expanding the “gaming” industry to generate revenue for a tight state budget. We need to change our language. It’s not a “game” unless there’s a level playing field. The casino always wins. And we lose…not only at the slot machines and pull-tab tables. We lose our homes, our children, our souls, and a culture of shared responsibility. All because…well…because we prefer slot machines to taxes. We sneak out on our kids at midnight, knowing full well that if we do, the whole house could burn down.