Skip this sucker bet

Backers of Ballot Measure 1, which would establish an Alaska Gaming Commission, want us to believe that the goal is to regulate and clean up gambling in Alaska.

Gee, we didn't know the Nenana Ice Classic was such a racket.

Of course it isn't a racket. And Ballot Measure 1 isn't about cleaning up gambling, either.

The measure would create a Gaming Commission with seven members (five voting), who would have the authority to allow "any future" gambling activities.

That's what this initiative is about.

There's plenty in the measure about regulation of gambling activities. Could a gaming commission keep a sharper eye on pull-tab, bingo and lottery operations and make sure nonprofits get a bigger share of charity gaming? Yes.

If that's the real goal, then there's no reason to give such a commission the authority to allow more gaming, casinos, a statewide lottery or agreements to join other states in mega-lotteries. Why not just set up a gaming commission to better regulate the gambling we have now and leave decisions about expansions to the Legislature? That's where those decisions belong.

Backers of expanded gambling haven't been able to get what they want from the Legislature. They claim it is out of touch with the people. So they want us to believe five voting members of a commission -- appointed, not elected -- will be more in touch with the people of Alaska than lawmakers.

The smart money says Measure 1 backers really figure that five members of a commission will be more in touch with those who want more gambling in the state. Cleaning up pull-tab shenanigans and making sure racing rats aren't juiced is just cover for a move to expand gambling in Alaska. Regulation is a respectable vehicle to drive to the casino.

But there's a price to pay, and it's not just pocket change. There are social costs with expanded gambling, costs that families and the rest of us bear. Alaska already is among national leaders in several criminal and dysfunctional categories. We don't need to add compulsive gambling to the mix.

As for gambling being a revenue driver for the state, give us a break. We don't need that revenue, and Alaska has a far brighter future in renewable energy and wise resource development than in carnival barking to fleece tourists and "recreation" opportunities in casinos.

We're not against all gambling. But Alaska allows a fair level of it now, a decent balance between Puritan rigidity and Vegas freewheeling. If we need more regulation and law enforcement, let's provide it. If we need to bust after-hours joints, give police and prosecutors the means.

We are against ballot measures masquerading as high-minded reform while trying to open the doors to a gambling industry in Alaska. Ladies and gentlemen, don't place this bet.

BOTTOM LINE: Gaming commission with the power to legalize new gambling? Few Alaskans were born yesterday. Vote no.


McHugh Pierre, a GOP operative, last week e-mailed a garden-variety political jab at U.S. Senate candidate Mark Begich, accusing Begich of trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat to Outsiders.

Pierre's list of carpetbagging contributors were all "liberals," listed in bold type by city or region. Chicago liberals. Seattle liberals. San Francisco liberals. East Coast liberals. More East Coast liberals. Hollywood liberals.

Wonder who the worst liberals are?

Can't be Chicago liberals. Chicago says Bears and "city of broad shoulders" and winter winds off Lake Michigan and liberals who had to deal with the Daley Machine. So they had to be tough.

Seattle liberals? Nah, Seattle liberals share our love of good coffee and wild salmon.

San Francisco liberals! Now we're talkin' red meat for red states, eh?

This gets me thinking -- who are the worst conservatives? Orange County conservatives? Phoenix conservatives? How about Dallas conservatives? North Pole conservatives, Santa be damned? And are those New England Republicans still described as rock-ribbed? Hit them with a body shot and they don't even blink. They just say, "A-ya."

Ah, but Mr. Pierre don't know jack about the real liberal threat. Shoot, man, anybody can spot urban, elitist liberals from Outside. It's the Alaska liberals you got to worry about, the ones who're gonna vote. Homer liberals. Talkeetna liberals. Why, I once heard a man in Sleetmute complain about Bethel liberals! Check out the Spenard liberals. REI and Organic Oasis. Ever hear of the Left Bank of Fish Creek? Me neither.

I can attest from personal experience that there are even -- brace yourself, Mr. Pierre -- Eagle River liberals. There are still more brown bears than liberals there, but the point is the threat isn't from Outside, Mr. Pierre. It's right here.

-- Frank Gerjevic