Too many taverns

Video poker palaces help feed a local economy that preys on its own residents

By Chuck Gardner

Special to the Review-Journal
June 7, 1996

    We have built an economy here in Las Vegas based on attracting tourists to a mecca of drinking, gambling and mostly sex-based enter tainment. To the extent that people wealthy enough to travel to the middle of the desert are entertained by these things and spread their wealth among us, few of us can really object. Gambling is addictive and destructive, but the physical isolation of Las Vegas forces most people to limit the vice within reasonable bounds.

    In the past decade, however, we have seen the proliferation of large and small casinos in our neighborhoods. We have the highest concentra tion of so-called "taverns" and "convenience stores" in the world, which in Las Vegas are noth ing more than excuses to have poker machines. Without these machines, at least half of these places would be gone tomorrow.

    We're building an economy that preys now on our own residents, whose gambling addictions don't come to a happy end each Monday morning.

    We're building a local culture of drinking and gambling that is pernicious to ourselves in ways most of us may not have considered. Where a tourist would be taking a cab to the airport Sun day afternoon, our drunken resident is weavirig home to children whose lunch money just went down the sewer.

    Instead of spreading the wealth from the rich to the poor, we're spreading it from the poorest among us to the richest.

    Instead of diversity in our community, every corner has a tavern and 7-Eleven crowding out other kinds of activities. Our children are out in the parking lots trying to figure out what to do with themselves, or spraying graffiti on the walls while their parents are inside the grocery stores throwing the college fund into the spas and swim ming pools of Spanish Trails and Rancho Bel Aire.

    Now they want even more. The tavern owners have hired Dan Hart, the campaign manager for Las Vegas mayor Jan Jones, as their lobbyist to help them convince the mayor and City Council to allow even more poker and slot machines in their establishments.

    One tavern owner has even convinced the mayor to invest with him in a prime tavern corner.

    The mayor, for whom I have the greatest respect, should sell her interest in the property, tell Dan Hart to choose between working for her or for the tavern owners, and tell the rest of these people to go away.

    We want diversity, not a tavern and convenience store on every corner.

    We want our children out of the parking. lots and their parents home after work.

    We need more schools, parks, and recreation centers.

    We have enough poker machines.

Chuck Gardner, a former deputy attorney general, writes from Las Vegas. The Review-Journal welcomes local commentary submissions. Send to the Las Vegas Review-Journal; Editorial Page, 1111 W. Bonanza Rd., Las Vegas, NV 89106.