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p38 Stateside:p12 Stateside 18/01/2010 09:21 Page 12
Sharon Harris lets fly with both barrels…
s we begin a new year and decade, I feel Yes, that is “change we can believe in” alright. The
cheated. Unlike other senators late in only change is that now the public has a clearer view
December, my two senators – Lautenberg of how blatantly disgusting the process has become.
and Menendez – neglected to demand However, healthcare is only one burden affecting
any generosity from Washington that the gaming industry. As the new decade began,
would include New Jersey on their gift lists. We New gaming revenues continued to decline and the
Jersey taxpayers face a state edging on financial ruin jobless rate across the country remained over 10%. In
from declining gaming revenues and an eroding Nevada, where casinos are king, that figure has
treasury. We could definitely use extra cash like those reached more than 13%. Even tribal giants like
senators who recently “persuaded” Congressional Connecticut’s Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun have
leaders to swing some their way. suffered huge losses.
Following last year’s rushed Stimulus Package, Has gaming, always considered recession-proof,
which, despite promising it would, did not prevent peaked years ago? Can the Obama Administration
the national unemployment rate from topping 10 per create an economic climate that will overcome these
cent. Now, as if on fire, the US Congress is racing obstacles? Our feature story this month looks at the
through the next issue…health care. status of the industry after a year of an Obama White
The Senate and the House have two distinct pieces House.
of 2000-plus page legislation. No one is happy; the In a follow-up to the February 2009 issue of Casino
House voted for theirs in the fall, and the Senate International, distributed at the London IGE show, I
voted for it early on Christmas Eve morning. Both am again reporting on the Obama Administration
Lautenberg and Menendez never blinked an eye when and gaming. How have things gone since Obama and
Will it cost jobs if
voting “yes”. a solidly Democratic Congress have taken power?
paying a fine and
Every American will be impacted. Currently, Last year, almost no-one could or wanted to
millions of American workers enjoy employer- speculate how an Obama Administration would
laying off
provided healthcare benefits as part of their impact American gaming. Since Obama had no
employees proves
compensation package. history with gaming issues, people I interviewed
For thousands of small gaming industry suppliers would only speculate. This year, I went back to several
less expensive
and vendors who meet specified earning thresholds, of the same people, but also reached out to others to
than paying for
mandates will require employee coverage or penalties. add some new perspective.
Will it cost jobs if paying a fine and laying off The interesting results occasionally reflect which
employees proves less expensive than paying for side of the political and professional fence the
mandated coverage? Will a greater percentage of respondent sits on. Although very polite, the
employees, from the dealers to the cage workers to communications representatives of two major casino
the buffet cooks, become part time so operators can operating companies turned me down flat.
save resources? No one knows. Translation…to me, that means they had little good
The giant casino operating and equipment to say and did not want to go on the record.
manufacturing corporations with thousands of These are two companies besides Steve Wynn’s
employees will face other mandates. And, union organization. It is common knowledge in Las Vegas
officials want their members covered in other that he does not support this Administration’s
specifically tax-exempt favorable ways. It is an handling of the economy, especially as it affects the
understatement to describe the situation as chaotic. private sector and job creation.
Before the vote, a few senators, including some On the other hand, other diehard Obama
from gaming states, received millions in sweetheart supporters praised Obama against the backdrop of
deals for their states, thereby securing their “aye” former President George W. Bush’s relationship with
votes. Other gaming states, like mine, saw nothing gaming. For them, Obama gets a pass on many issues
from this sleight-of-hand maneuver. In fact, Senate because they feel that he inherited a disastrous
Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, who failed to economy. Regardless of whether his actions will
secure tax exemptions for his home state of Nevada, improve the situation or make it worse, to them he
said that those who came away empty handed didn’t took decisive action and earned their approval.
quite do the job for their states. While I have definite views, I have aimed to be as
It is the same old Washington nonsense – I would objective as possible; read the story and draw your
use a stronger word, but this is a proper magazine. own conclusions.
38 FEBRUARY 2010
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