Thursday, November 02, 2006

Gambling, "Gray Lives" & Grief

"These are people who lead very gray lives. They don't see their sons and daughters very much. They don't have much social interaction. There's not a whole lot of good things that happen in their month. But if you put them on the bus, they're excited. They're happy. They have fun. They see bright lights. They hear music. They pull that slot machine and with each pull they think they have a chance to win... . It's unbelievable what brightness and cheer it brings to older Pennsylvanians. Unbelievable."
-- Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell, in an interview with the Lancaster New Era, published Oct. 19, 2006.

"Just listen to that! The voice of Argentina! We are adored! We are loved! ***

"Put me down for a lifetime of success. Give me credit, I'll find ways of paying. ***
"Don't cry for me, Argentina."
--Eva Perón, speaking in the stage show Evita (1996), per lyrics by Tim Rice, found here.
Edward Rendell, who is running for re-election as Governor against Republican challenger Lynn Swann, experiences much grief over his remarks, made recently in an interview with the Editorial Board of a Central Pennsylvania newspaper.

An incisive commentary by John Baer, entitled "
Ed plays craps with the senior vote", posted October 24, 2006, by the Philadelphia Daily News, points out that the Governor's remarks could be taken the wrong way by seniors in the Commonwealth, just before election day:
YO, OLD PEOPLE! Miserable? Hate your kids? Nothing to live for? Don't touch that gas range. Don't call Dr. Kevorkian. Just listen to Gov. Rendell. He says help is on the way.

Soon, oldsters, your hopelessness will fade, your loneliness will end, replaced by the beauty of bright lights, the giddy thrill of getting on a bus, going to a casino and pulling the lever of a slot machine.

That's right, Grandma. Thanks to Gov. Ed and the pending arrival of one-armed bandits across the state, you no longer have to plot to kill yourself and/or your mate." * * *

[T]he Census Bureau says [in Pennsylvania,] 79 percent of folks 65 or older register to vote, the highest rate of any age group. You'd think, or at least I'd think, the elected leader of the state wouldn't describe older people as depressed and dull-witted with drab lives made better only by bright lights, music and the belief they can win a bucket full of quarters. At least not in an election year.
Well, as to the "happiness" element, AARP sets the record straight in that same article:
Steve Gardner of Pennsylvania's AARP says, "Obviously we don't believe many seniors lead gray lives."

Today's AARP members in Pennsylvania are more active and vibrant than ever before. They're working longer, volunteering more and are involved in the lives of their children and grandchildren.

What's more, they're happy. According to a national AARP study, 79 percent of members surveyed described themselves as happy in the last month."
AARP lists the maintenance of legalized gambling on its list of key Pennsylvania election issues found here -- which include long-term care, property taxes, & utility shut-offs during winter. As to Pennsylvania's "lottery fund", this is AARP's position (which is supported by both Rendell and Swann as candidates):
Established in 1971, the Pennsylvania Lottery is the only state lottery that exclusively targets its proceeds to benefit older citizens.

Proceeds of the Lottery provide a host of benefits and services to older Pennsylvanians, including:
  • property tax relief and rent rebates
  • free and reduced-fare transit and reduced vehicle registration fees
  • a co-pay prescription drug program, the Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly (PACE)
  • funding for Area Agencies on Aging services
AARP believes maintaining the Lottery Fund to benefit older Pennsylvanians should continue. * * *
Governor Rendell states, in his response to AARP on this issue: "Under my leadership, the Pennsylvania Lottery continues to set new sales records –- the Lottery now collects an additional $1 billion per year."

The Governor's election-time remarks were the subject of numerous articles published in Pennsylvania and across the nation focusing on the characterization of seniors' "gray lives", not about the grief that gambling can cause. For example, on October 25, 2006, the Patriot News published an article by Sharon Smith entitled "Rendell slots remarks stir seniors, GOP Older players turn from 'gray lives' to enjoy gaming, he says".

The Daily Review, in an article published October 31, 2006, entitled "
Two dozen protest Rendell comment about senior citizens", noted that some senior citizens were protesting -- literally, in Towanda, Bradford County, PA -- over the Governor's remarks, and that Rendell has since attempted to clarify his thinking:
Rendell has since defended his remarks, telling a reporter from Pittsburgh television station WTAE on Oct. 26 that his comments had been taken out of context.

“I said some senior citizens lead lives that don’t have a lot of excitement,” Rendell told WTAE.

“For them, to go gamble and lose $20 or $25 is the lion’s share of entertainment in their lives, and that’s the truth. You go to any gaming facility in West Virginia and New Jersey and you see a lot of seniors having a great time.” * * *
But there is a darker side of gambling, as identified by the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, which maintains a website about its ill effects. The NCALG includes links for other organizations opposed to legalized gambling. NCALG asserts that gambling is addictive, financially destructive, and criminally corruptive in many situations.

NCALG highlights one state and one city well-known for their early and now-pervasive legalized gambling:

If it Makes You Happy, Then Why . . . Politicians plotting "stealth taxes" and profiteering gambling expansionists so often pander the promises of "development" and a better community through gambling. Consider these benchmarks from two of America's gambling hot spots:
Legalized gambling does present some tangible benefits to seniors in the form of funds raised by the Commonwealth dedicated to seniors' programs. But gambling also creates burdens on some of our citizens -- both seniors & other adults -- who become weakened by its glitter and then addicted to their gee-wiz dreams projected far above the ground on which they walk.
[During Eva's funeral:]

Ché: And the money kept rolling out in all directions. To the poor, to the weak, to the destitute of all complexions. Now, cynics claim a little of the cash has gone astray. But that's not the point, my friend. When the money keeps rolling out you don't keep books! You can tell you've done well by the happy grateful looks. Accountants only slow things down, figures get in the way. Never been a lady loved as much as Eva Perón! ***

Juan Perón: But, on the other hand - she's all they have. She's a diamond in their dull gray lives - and that's the hardest kind of stone - it usually survives. And when you think about it, can you recall the last time they loved anyone at all? She's not a bauble you can brush aside. She's been out doing what we just talked about - example: Gave us back our businesses, got the English out. And when you think about it, well, why not do one or two of the things we promised to? But on the other hand, she's slowing down. She's lost a little of that magic drive. But I would not advise those critics present to derive any satisfaction from her fading star. She's the one whose kept us where we are.

[He leaves]

Perón's Generals: She's the one... who's kept you where you are.

* * *
Update: 11/02/06:

After posting this entry, I sent an email message identifying it to Prof. Gerry Beyer, who authors the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog. He noted it in his posting entitled "Elder Law, Casinos, and the Pennsylvania Governor's Race", found here, as follows:

Joining the ranks of famous people who are making regretable public comments about religion, American military personnel, and individuals of different races, genders, and sexual orientations, is Governor Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania ....

For a detailed discussion of the reactions to this statement, see Gambling, Gray Lives & Grief on the PA Elder,Estate & Fiduciary Law Blog authored by Neil E. Hendershot of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania law firm of Goldberg Katzman, P.C.

On this topic, read the insightful article that appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on November 16, 2006, by Gary Rotstein, entitled "Government needs to pay more attention to social ills of gambling, expert says". The article begins as follows:

Governments like Pennsylvania's have become revenue-dependent promoters of the gambling industry instead of focusing on how to prevent and address social problems from the spread of casinos, a professor who studies the industry said yesterday.

Robert Goodman, a professor of architecture at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., told a group at the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work that Pennsylvania politicians are but the latest to succumb to use of "pariah taxes" to rescue their budgets. * * *