Hwang: Nothing Sweet About The “Sweetener”

“Gambling is not the basis either for a successful economy in this state, or for a stable state government financial system. You can’t rely on gambling as a way to really sustain your government.”

That’s how State Rep. Arthur O’Neill in June effectively summed up the so-called ‘sweetener’ bill that cleared the way for a possible expansion of casino gambling in Connecticut.His comments shined a bright light on the need for a sustainable state budget — one which gives confidence to the business community.

Rep. O’Neill’s sensible words fell on deaf ears. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the ‘sweetener’ into law this month.

For Rep. O’Neill and those of us who strive for more predictability, reliability and transparency in our state’s finances, there really was nothing “sweet” about the sweetener.

Gov. Malloy has placed his bet. He signed a bad bill.

The legislation increases the number of off-track betting sites to 24, up from the current 18.It also directs the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection to adopt regulations for legalized sports betting if Congress repeals a 1992 federal law which outlawed sports wagering.

The bill was “sweetened” in order to capture the necessary votes for the new East Windsor casino. That’s a poor way to craft public policy.It ignores the societal costs that gambling has brought to Connecticut.

  • The human consequences.
  • The addictions.
  • The bankruptcies.
  • The families that have been torn apart.
  • The lost hopes.
  • The suicides.

In signing the “sweetener’, Gov. Malloy doubled down on the gambling industry. His signature spoke volumes. As our budget crisis continues, don’t be surprised to see more and more calls for expanded gambling in any way, shape or form.

As for me, I will continue to raise awareness about the costs of expanded gambling and speak out for the victims. A diverse coalition of religious and grassroots groups have joined me. The Coalition Against Casino Expansion in Connecticut (NoMoreCasinosInCT.org) is comprised of Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Muslims, Methodists and Baptists. We have undertaken what many call a ‘David vs. Goliath’ fight. But make no mistake: this is a fight worth having.

The forces that want expanded gambling in Connecticut are extremely powerful, but their victories only serve to renew our focus on preventing future addiction from taking hold and growing in our state.

Sen. Hwang represents Easton, Fairfield, Newtown, Weston and Westport. On the web: SenatorHwang.com. He can be reached at [email protected] and at 800-842-1421.

Sen. Tony Hwang

Sen. Tony Hwang

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