Tone, Speed, and Casinos

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I have visited a casino once in my life and, while I admit that once is only once, it is obvious that another casino to fund a Vikings stadium is a mistake.

It was the middle of the night when I went with friends who like to gamble. Burned into my memory was the image of a woman who appeared to be in her 60s, slipping coin after coin into a slot machine as her glazed-over eyes watched the screen and a cigarette burned next to her. She had one hand on the arm of the slot machine and in the other she held the hand of the woman next to her. The woman next to her was in a wheelchair, probably in her 80s, clearly immobile, mouth agape, muscles clenched and contorted, and appeared to be unaware of fact that she was sitting in a stale, smoke filled casino. I almost burst into tears.

I wondered if her diaper was full, if it was her social security that was dropping coin by coin into the slot machine, and if this was the only pleasure Daughter had because she was constantly caring for Mother. Clearly, there is something wrong with our priorities if we accept this picture, take invalid Mother’s money, and give it to Wilf and Lux.

Studies go back and forth about the value of casinos. Do they bring in new revenue or simply shift it from those who are least equipped to lose it to those who don’t need it at all? Similarly, the debate rages on about whether state investments in new mega stadiums pay off. It depends on who you ask, of course. If our decision is based solely on our emotional response, emotional satisfaction is all we will have to show for it. In this fiscal mess, we need money for ALL Minnesotans not warm fuzzies about football. Yes, there will be some jobs – the quality and permanence of the jobs, however, always seems to be ignored.

It is clear that “Zygiland” will be much more than just a stadium. We all know that Wilf can work his magic to maximize his share of Mother’s money. A Vikings Stadium will only be part of a much larger development that will make him, not the state, wealthier. And what a break for Lux! Mother can help him turn around that troubled property he has been snatching up downtown for years. Finally a break! Thank you, Mother!

I am not naive enough to think that every Mother/Daughter pair is like the one I saw on my only trip to the casino. I am also not naive enough to think that they are the only ones. Aren’t they enough, though? If our answer is no, we are some messed up people.

Let’s not let the Vikings blackmail us based on our fear of what might happen if they leave. Let’s not let them take advantage of Mother and Daughter, who won’t be able to afford a ticket to a game at “Zygiland” anyway. Let’s change the tone of this debate – from “how to get it done” back to “whether it is worth doing.” Slow down, Governor. Slow down, Political Machine. Slow down, Minnesotans.