Courts Finally Applying Law in Casino Disputes

quote-we-apply-law-to-facts-we-don-t-apply-feelings-to-factsThough it may seem odd given the amount of time taken to move forward with the North Fork Rancheria’s proposed casino in Madera County, California, a judge has ruled that while the objections to the construction of a casino on State Route 99 are understandable, legally they have no real merit. The sad news is that it only took 11 years for the court system to come to its senses. The good news is that courts are now more willing to apply the law and not react to well-meaning though legally misguided attempts to interfere with new casino construction.

The pro-casino and anti-casino arguments are well known and have been for years. On the pro side is the new jobs created by new casino construction and the permanent and part time jobs that will remain after construction is completed. Many new casinos are in reality complexes, many include hotels and shopping malls. The opposition uses the standard morality arguments of gambling addiction and jobs that are low paying and without actual benefit packages. The latter of these arguments is indeed well-meaning, but what has become obvious to the courts is that a low paying job is better than no job at all.

The sticky point in this decade long legal battle is that there is an Indian reservation casino about 30 miles away that is almost sure to lose some business to the ideally located casino and hotel plan currently under approval. For those not familiar with California living, a 30 mile distance can be covered in less than 30 minutes – and you must have a car in California to live normally. For those unfamiliar with US 99, it is almost dead center in the state of California – an almost perfect location.

All this raises the question of whether casino competition, regulated by both state and federal governments in this case, is actually healthy business competition or a politically motivated issue. We all know there is more than some degree of political influence in awarding casino licenses in any state, but in this case state and federal concerns are in play. The comment by the judge that the concerns of the casino construction opponents were understandable says that casinos and the industry are no longer evil habitats that must have the government as a wet nurse to make sure everyone is behaving. If casinos cannot compete, then it may be argued that casinos require even more regulation due to the propensity for casinos to take advantage of the consumer – meaning the players.

Much of the more recent California casino news is dealing with the upgrade, expansion, and increased competition between local casinos. After 11 years it can be safely presumed that the judge realizes there is a casino war of sorts going on in the state, and deems it wise for the federal government not to get involved. This only makes sense given that the government coffers will get their share regardless of the outcome. Though it may be upsetting to the anti-casino advocates, a casino is simply a place where a transfer of money takes place – from the casino to the player or the player to the casino. Banks do the same thing, only at a casino do you have a fair chance to come out ahead without having to wait a decade.

While California may be the trend setter in casino competition nationally, it has little competition from surrounding states. Las Vegas/Nevada is a special case. In contrast, over on the East Coast the states of New Jersey and New York are engaging in their own casino competition, and do not have to deal with in-state legal entanglements. In fact, it can be argued that the State of New York has the most efficiently run casino system in the nation. Like so many medieval castles of the financial ilk, New York has established a bastion along its border with New Jersey, with New Jersey still trying to catch up.

In all of this, the advantage unquestionably goes to the players. Like in the days before Big Business created international conglomerates that control much of the available consumer products, casinos are being allowed to work things out for themselves. Players can decide by where they spend their money which casinos will benefit them the most – and end up survivors. The local casino whose business is threatened by the new casino may have suffered what many businesses face every day and has resulted in their demise- complacency.

Do you agree with the judge’s ruling that allows for the optimally placed new casino to the likely demise of the existing casino 30 miles away? Would you be willing to make the case that casinos built on Federal land unfairly benefit those casinos because it gives them a protected status that prevents fair competition? The North Fork Rancheria’s proposed casino battle has climbed a major hurdle, but it seems the battle is not yet over.

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