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The Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling is a relatively new group headed by two former politicians-turned-lobbyists, former New York Republican Gov. George Pataki and former Denver Democrat Mayor Wellington Webb. It wasn’t that long ago that both former politicians were vocal proponents of their respective states’ pro-gaming and lottery policies.
Gov. Pataki was labeled by The New York Times in 2001 as “perhaps the most pro-gambling governor the state has ever had.” That moniker came even before the NY lottery nearly tripled its annual intake – from $2.4 billion when Pataki started as governor in 1995 to $6.2 billion in 2006 when he left the governorship.
Pataki pushed three gambling solutions to the New York state’s runaway budget troubles:
- An expansion of the state lottery;
- A new Indian casino in Western NY; and
- Slot machines installed in horse-racing tracks
In 1995, his first year in office, Pataki also pushed gambling as the solution for out of control spending by imploring the state legislature to adopt a Quick Draw lottery game. And, according to the Times, unsuccessfully sought authorization for non-Indian casinos in resort towns. Pataki even touted lottery revenues before he even took office – campaigning on using such funds to reduce property taxes.
These days Pataki claims the spread of online gambling will fuel terrorism networks and transnational organized crime as it makes money laundering easier.
The there is Wellington Webb. As mayor of Denver, Webb was all-too-eager to take funds generated by the lottery to fund the creation of more than 2,000 acres of new parks and open space. In 1996, Webb even tapped future lottery proceeds to pay for $11.4 million allocated to land and parks. And, according to the Denver Post, in 1991, Webb embarked on a plan to revitalize housing in downtown Denver using resources from the State Historic Fund, which in financed, in part, by gambling revenues.
Webb’s hypocrisy may not ring as loud as Pataki’s, it is nonetheless starker, particularly since Webb has been more outspoken in the press about his new found opposition to gambling. He has come out strong – saying Internet gambling is for “chumps.”
Isn’t it funny how neither Gov. Pataki nor Mayor Webb had a problem with gambling – or the “chumps” it attracts – when it came to funding their favored government projects.