The November 2002 voting will be remembered as one of the few times that the party in power in the White House also gained control of both houses of Congress in a midterm election. But the biggest winner may have been the gaming industry, which will see renewed growth in racinos, state lotteries and tribal casinos.
Massachusetts: Mitt Romney (R.), the next governor, supports putting gaming devices at racetracks to help balance the budget. Holyoke voted 59% – 41% in a non-binding referendum to support bringing a casino to the town.
Michigan: Jennifer Granholm (D.) edged out Dick Posthumus (R.) for governor, but neither was in favor of expanded gambling.
Minnesota: The U.S. Senate race between the Norm Coleman (R.) and former Vice-President Walter F. Mondale attracted international attention. Little noticed was another Republican victory, Tim Pawlenty won the gubernatorial race with only 44%. Neither successful candidates has spoken out publicly about legal gambling.
Missouri: State Republicans, who have not shown any interest in any kind of large tax increase, took control of the state House for the first time in nearly 50 years. Add this to the Missouri Gaming Commission’s criticism of the economics of Illinois’s new 50% tax on large casino investments and it looks like Missouri’s riverboat casinos are safe for a while. The Legislature would probably go along with lifting the $500 loss limit if the casinos agreed to a small tax increase.
Nebraska: A loss for legal gaming. Pro-gambling incumbent Stormy Dean (D.) was wiped out in the gubernatorial race by anti Mike Johanns (R.), who would allow only a small number of additional casinos at most, and no more slots.
Nevada: It is sometimes said, “The problem with political jokes is they sometimes get elected.” But usually they do not. Joe Neal (D.) ran on a platform of raising casino taxes – in Nevada! He got 22%, but did beat “None of the above.” Voters also overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional amendment, which would have prevented anyone possessing up to three ounces of marijuana from being prosecuted; pot use for medicinal purposes is already allowed. The marijuana backers said they purposely chose Nevada. The state’s tradition of freedom, including legal gambling and prostitution, comes from its history on the western frontier. It is not a politically liberal state.
New Hampshire: Outgoing Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D.), who supported using slots to raise money, will not be going to the U.S. Senate, beaten by former Presidential speech-writer John Sununu (R.). The Legislature, which blocked Shaheen’s push for racinos, did not change. Both candidates for governor oppose legal gambling; Craig Benson (R.) won.
New Jersey: Atlantic City casinos lost a strong voice in the U.S. House of Representatives when Robert G. Torricelli (D.) quit to make a disastrous run for the U.S. Senate. Another Democrat, Frank R. Lautenberg, did win that race, but will probably not be as actively against Indian and Internet gaming as Torricelli was.
New Mexico: Tribes lost a friend with the retirement of Gov. Gary Johnson. Bill Richardson (D.), supports the status quo on Indian casinos, but would endorse another racetrack with slots, if the voters approve.
New York: Another big win for legal gambling. Incumbent Gov. George Pataki (R.), an advocate of expanding Indian gaming and establishing racinos, beat Carl McCall (D.), who called for a casino moratorium.
North Dakota: A symbolic breakthrough for state lotteries. North Dakota voters in 1986 joined only three other states this century in not approving a state lottery. In November 2002 they changed their mind, voting in a state lottery with the right to join multi-state games, like PowerBall.
Ohio: Incumbent Gov. Bob Taft (R.), easily reelected, opposes slots at tracks, telephone account wagering and other proposed expansions of gambling.
Oklahoma: It looks like Brad Henry (D.) has squeaked by anti-gambling former NFL player Steve Largent to be the next governor. The Legislature failed to act, so voters made it a felony to engage in any activity associated with cockfighting.
Oregon: Ted Kulongaski (D.), who resigned from the state Supreme Court to run for governor, probably knows more about the laws and realities of legal gambling than any other state chief executive. As Attorney General, he headed the Governor’s Task Force to study gambling in Oregon. He invited me to be the lead witness. I found him to be knowledgeable and unbiased, determined to hear all sides of the issue before reaching conclusions.
Pennsylvania: Another big victory, which shows how far legal gambling has come. Fifty years ago, being associated with any form of gambling, legal or not, was the kiss of death for a candidate. This year, both candidates for governor supported the idea of racinos. Ed Rendell (D.), won by a landslide and immediately announced that his top priority is to lower property taxes by allowing slot machines at the state’s five racetracks.
Rhode Island: Donald L. Carcieri (R.) was elected governor, without taking a strong public position on gaming.
South Carolina: In 1998, Jim Hodges (D.) beat incumbent Gov. David Beasley (R.) by not opposing video poker and by supporting a state lottery, which the voters then authorized in Nov. 2000. In 2002 Hodges lost to Mark Sanford (R.), who had opposed the state lottery.
South Dakota: Mike Rounds (R.) won the governor’s race; he is basically in favor of the status quo. Native Americans across the country campaigned for Attorney General candidate Ron Volesky (D.), a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, but he lost to Larry Long (R.).
Tennessee: A very big win. Tennessee has had gambling; charity bingo was closed down in scandal and parimutuel betting was authorized, but no track was built. Now that the voters have amended the State Constitution allowing a state lottery, the Legislature will have to go along, especially since the new governor, Phil Bredesen (D.) supports the lottery. This means 48 states and all territories of the U.S. will now have some form of commercial gambling.
Texas: Incumbent Rick Perry (R.), an opponent of all gambling, especially Indian casinos, was reelected, beating pro-gaming Tony Sanchez (D.). John Cornyn (R.), a crusading A.G. against Internet gambling, is going to the U.S. Senate.
Vermont: Jim Douglas (R.), who has not taken a strong position publicly on gambling, was elected governor.
West Virginia: State law allows casinos in historic hotels, restricted to registered guests. The catch – local voters have to approve. Greenbrier rejected the idea in 2000; Huntington voters did the same in 2002.
Wisconsin: A statewide win for Indian gaming. Jim Doyle (D.), who favors expansion, defeated an anti, Scott McCallum (R.). But in Wausau, voters turned down a proposal for a casino to be owned by the Ho-Chunk tribe by a margin of two-to-one.
Wyoming: Dave Freudenthal (D.) is the new governor; he has not taken a strong public position on gambling.