Ladies and gentlemen of the House, I rise for the purpose of sounding an alarm. To my fellow Delegates and to the people of WV, I sound the warning signal. Brace yourselves for an impending invasion by a powerful army of gambling lobbyist, special interests, and filthy rich benefactors.
Even now, this terrible, omnipotent force is consuming the WV Senate. Most observers project that sometime today or tomorrow the Senate will have been completely devoured, capitulate, and forced to surrender. This army, strengthened by victory -- flying the flag of blackjack and roulette -- will then march upon the people's house. This House of Delegates, bastion of democracy, 100 members strong, closer to our citizens, more representative of their hopes, dreams, and desires than any other branch of government is squarely in the cross-hairs of this swarming army. We are the last line of defense against a sleazy, despicable industry that preys upon our poor and fleeces the limited assets from the most vulnerable segment of an already vulnerable state.
This blackjack brigade is armed with weapons of disinformation, the allure of easy money, chance winnings, and the promise of a bulging state treasury all for the small price of worshiping at the alter of a roulette wheel. They even have the power to distort democracy by allowing only the people they select to vote on the question of authorizing a currently illegal activity to occur within the boundaries of our state. Their dark, cruel, calculating strategy is to first attack economically distressed states --establish a beachhead -- and then raise the stakes by playing one state against another. Is it any wonder that the first attacks occurred in MS and WV? The plague has now spread to PA and LA. The stakes have been raised and WV is being played for a fool!
Ladies and Gentlemen, are we doomed to defeat, condemning our children to bleak careers as card dealers? It has recently been reported that WV Northern Community College is partnering to provide training for table-game employees. Are we not better than this? Do we not have higher aspirations?
Mr. Speaker, I stand urging us to unite in a noble struggle to defeat this insipid industry that destroys the moral, social, and economic climate of our precious state. We can break our addiction to gambling. Now is the time! This is the place! As was famously said, "If not us -- who". "If not now -- when"?
It is we who posses the superior weapons in this classic struggle between exploitation of the poor versus honorable, intelligent, hard work. Mr. Speaker, we have at least 3 supreme weapons that will win our victory and cause our enemy to fold.
First, we have incontrovertible evidence that it is the poor and underprivileged that are the casualties of the gambling industry. They would have us believe that jobs and opportunities abound in this sleazy business. But, we know better. We are armed with proof from independent studies -- not gambling projections. Bankruptcies increase where gambling expands. Gambling addictions proliferate, families are destroyed and society is damaged. In the battle between the negative social costs of gambling versus lining the pockets of gaming executives, we win and they fold.
Secondly, we have statements from the captains of American industry such as Warren Buffet which express a preference for creating, growing, and investing in business enterprises that are NOT located in close proximity to gambling casinos. Given the choice between honest, noble business expansion or gambling schemes. We win and they fold.
Thirdly, we have the most powerful weapon of all -- the will of the people! As introduced, the gambling bill prevents the vast majority of West Virginians from exercising our democratic right to vote. The effects of gambling expansion do not stop at the county line. It negatively impacts the moral, social, and economic climate of the entire state. All of us and every WV citizen should be outraged at the suggestion that we forfeit the right of suffrage on such an important issue. America stands for democracy through the power of the ballot box. Throughout history, men and women have suffered and died that we might have the opportunity to vote and the freedom to choose our course of action. Yet, as it concerns gambling, the majority of West Virginians are to be disenfranchised.
Mr. Speaker, we will win this battle! No reasonable person would suggest that Las Vegas style casino gambling anywhere in WV will not effect the entire state. Gambling proponents contend that a 4 county vote is preferable because they want to protect the other counties in WV from gambling expansion. Seriously, they believe that we are that stupid. Nothing could be further from the truth. The question is whether to legalize casino gambling at the 4 state race tracks, period. Fellow Delegates, in a democracy, every county and every citizen deserves the right to vote on such a profound question! When all people are given the right to vote -- we win and they fold.
Mr. Speaker, let us use the weapons at our disposal to defeat the gambling army and win a victory for the citizens of WV. Let us send a clear and unmistakable message to the gaming industry: the Senate may have been defeated, but, in WV, this HOUSE always wins!!