No pride in lottery numbers

Posted Oct. 27, 2009, at 7:26 p.m.

The Maine State Lottery income is up for the first three months of Maine’s fiscal year. That’s good news, according to Dan Gwadosky, director of the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations. Gwadosky says “It’s been a good three months. We’re off to a good start.” How nice for the state. During our nation’s worst recession in 80 years there’s joy in Augusta over an uptick in lottery sales.

First we need a little background. Gwadosky likely sounds familiar. He should. If you’re more than 25 years old, his name was on your driver’s license at one time. He used to be secretary of state. But since Maine passed into law the shell game of term limits, the powerful just shift around from place to place and they never really worry about losing their jobs.

Too bad it’s not like that for everybody, especially the folks in Oxford County where the state department of labor says the current unemployment rate is 11 percent. I couldn’t find the underemployment rates, but I’ll bet they’re extremely high too. And judging from the increased lottery sales I’m sure somebody will take that bet.

One thing about Dan Gwadosky before we move on: He’s a stand-up guy. Sure he’s a protected politico, but I remember interviewing him when he began his program to increase voter participation by getting folks to vote in honor of a veteran. Maine is always among the highest voter turn out states and Dan deserves credit for some of that.

The recycled politician that should really walk away now is Dennis Bailey. Back for a fresh fight on a new casino referendum that’s in its infancy, with signature gatherers working to get it on the 2010 ballot, Dennis is the politician with the most in common with the Maine state lottery — they both make money from gambling.

A new referendum is good news for Bailey. Another campaign financed by a few big-money donors determined to keep Maine the way they want it — and the labor pool desperate — will hire Goliath to crush David, even though David just wants to feed his kids.

A little disclosure: I was the spokesperson for the casino referendum last year. You might think that I’m beating this drum because I’m involved in this one too. I’m not. I’m just sick of my fellow average-wage earners being denied a job in an industry that provides health insurance and benefits. I open the paper and see that the state is making money on that industry and is celebrating the increased sale of lottery tickets, even though there’s a good chance that those tickets were purchased with an unemployment check.

I’m fed up, but I’m not alone.

Last Christmas I was at the Maine Mall raising money for a charity that helps poor kids. A man walked up and said, “Why are you here? Why isn’t Bailey here? He says Mainers don’t need ‘those kinds’ of jobs but then he’s never around when we need help.” Who knows, maybe Bailey does help the poor. But the guy’s point was made; he’s not so public about it.

Rising unemployment while the lottery prospers — there’s your crime. A resort that hires hundreds of Mainers, that’s a good thing.

Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@hotmail.com.

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