Conservatives and Casinos

The big winner of the May 16th primary was the conservative wing of the Republican Party. Moderate incumbents across the state were bested by right-wing challengers riding a wave of voter discontent over the pay raise, spending increases, and other grievances. Make no mistake—this was not a progressive impulse. The GOP legislative caucus has become more conservative and by extension so has state government. While this new reality is certainly problematic for most progressive causes, it might provide a glimmer of hope for casino opponents.

The new rightward bend of the state GOP might lead to a reexamination of the legalization of slots. The religious right has long been opposed to an expansion of gambling on moral grounds. According to an article in the Harrisburg Patriot-News, Speaker John Perzel and Majority Leader Sam Smith are under pressure from their caucus to stop working so closely with Gov. Rendell:

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Smith, meanwhile, said he has heard the pleas from members angered by deals cut by leaders on issues such as tax increases and legalization of slot machines. They want "Republicans ... to lead like Republicans," the Jefferson countian said, adding that he will use that to focus on negotiating a budget that tightly controls new spending.

The primary losses combined with the upcoming gubernatorial campaign make it likely that Republicans will aggressively try to block Rendell’s agenda in the coming months. While this might mean trouble for the minimum wage coalition, it could be an opening for anti-casino activists. Politicians might claim that gambling is inevitable, but the primary election proved that nothing is certain.

great point

Between the primaries, the upcoming gubernatorial and the first arrests in the Fumo corruption probe there is reason to think that things are very different when it comes to Act 71 (or Fumo's Slots Law as we call it) than they were just 3 weeks ago. Opportunities need to be taken advantage of and I think there are plenty of opportunitie to bring together anti-casino/pro-community planning activists (like those us active in www.NABRhood.org) and progressives eager to change how the city and state function. NABR, and Casino Free Phila. have already shown an ability to build support from across the political spectrum. Much more can be done and we are looking forward to June 28th, when we bring residents of Philly to Harrisburg to continue our efforts to stop the casinos. I would be interested in continuing to think about how to build a strong right-left coalition to counter the casinos (and perhaps explore the potential for unusual alliances to support the minium wage effort as well). Which groups would make for a strong alliance, which electeds at city and state level should be tapped who might join the leadership that is already in opposition?

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