Legislators exercise caution with casino laws
An old saying holds that one should never watch laws or sausage being made. The idea is that, if you witnessed what went on in the process, your stomach would turn, and you would never view the finished product in the same way again.
I hold no views on the making of sausage, but I have worked with many legislators over my career, and there is no basis for that old saying—at least when it comes to making gaming laws. In my experience, lawmakers deal with gaming forthrightly, and endeavor to keep the best interests of their constituents in mind.
My views were confirmed in a conversation with Michael Pollock, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group. Mike heads that firm’s economic studies and public policy engagements, and he has worked with legislators, regulators, and other stakeholders in multiple states and countries.
For example, Spectrum was recently engaged by the Florida Legislature to perform a study in advance of any new gaming legislation in the Sunshine State. Spectrum’s study lays out the trends that are behind gaming’s evolution everywhere. Following the presentation of that report, Pollock and the Spectrum team testified before the Florida Senate Gaming Committee and twice before the Florida House Select Gaming Committee.
My review of that testimony demonstrates that Florida lawmakers from both parties asked pointed questions that demonstrated a strong grasp of the issues. That is quite common among legislators, in my experience. They know how important gaming is, and how critical it is that they get it right the first time.
In January, Pollock testified before the prestigious National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (known as NCLGS, pronounced ”nickel-jeez”) at its winter meeting in Florida, where he discussed some of the big issues surrounding his firm’s report. He began with clear—and, in my view, appropriate—praise for the Legislature and its staff. (Readers of this column know how I feel about the staffs of government agencies. They are the essential, unsung heroes who truly make government work.)
Legislators are busy people, grappling with a wide array of issues that would challenge the best of us. Such issues can range from education to the environment. Gaming is important, but it is only one of the issues that make up a legislative agenda. I also note that many legislators are part-timers, and work full-time jobs that range from teacher to dentist to labor leader.
Prescient lawmakers—and I have had the privilege of knowing many in numerous states—want to “get it right” the first time. Additionally, I believe that most casino operators and suppliers want to get it right as well, and they want to work with legislators and regulators who are all on the same page. Gaming issues have to be debated and resolved on their merits, not their political benefits.
The recent efforts in Florida and elsewhere demonstrate that more and more elected officials get that message. This should provide significant comfort to public and private stakeholders who want gaming to evolve in a responsible, responsive manner.
My experience confirms that most legislators and rulemakers nationwide are extremely scrupulous and thorough in writing and implementing studies and regulations governing legalized gaming. Their work should be respected and their vital contributions to the health of the industry applauded.