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Letters to the Editor

Letter: Casino hypocrisy

  • Author: Pete Roberts
    | Opinion
  • Updated: December 9, 2019
  • Published December 9, 2019

I’m writing to refute retired state gaming “auditor” Joe Koss’s letter blasting the mayor for supporting a casino in Eklutna because it would create jobs. Koss wrote “a casino would violate federal law, or that it would severely damage, if not kill, charitable gaming.” He said gaming in Alaska was created “some 30 years ago” as a substitute for state funding, that it’s “working very well” and without it, “state or local government would be forced to take up the slack.”

If only that were true.

“Charitable” gaming is a misnomer. Nonprofit social clubs received millions of dollars without relief of any governmental burden. Charitable gaming passed in 1960 over Gov. Bill Egan’s veto. Egan feared “enforcement problems would pose major and costly difficulties.” His attorney general said “tremendous discretionary power” granted to “the personality of the subordinate official” made the bill a “dangerous experiment.” Bingo!

“Regulators” approve programs without notice. Undermined businesses are denied a written record of reasons. Affidavits describing how programs are run are ignored. Judges accept a cherry-picked post hoc rationale over a different verbal one “allegedly” provided to the state ombudsman and recorded in her report. Incredibly, the state also asserted “there is no requirement of compliance with federal law” and undermined businesses could “adapt to the interference, either by moving or … by offering a (different) product …”

A casino in Eklutna may or may not be a good thing. But when someone on a generous state pension retired from a feckless agency with a written record of hostility to taxpaying employers rails against it for the erroneous reasons offered by Koss, it is shameful and the height of hypocrisy.

If responsible charities fear an Eklutna casino will siphon one of their revenue streams they should acknowledge that well has been poisoned. They and the new Revenue Commissioner should advocate for a notice requirement, a waiting period, and adherence to the federal “Commerciality Doctrine” prohibiting unfair nonprofit competition.

Most important, the compromised court-made, formerly black-letter rule compelling agencies to produce a fact-based written record of reasons to citizens aggrieved by agency action should be codified into statutory law.

— Pete Roberts

Anchorage

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