Furor and Fury at NGISC

29 April 1999
News bulletin! The National Gambling Impact Study Commission is split in trying to come up with a final draft for its June 18 report. Anyone in the house who expected anything different?

The NGISC has been split since the day it was formed. Now, nearing the end of its two-year assignment, it can't agree on what to propose. Richard Leone of New Jersey prepared a draft calling for a moratorium on the expansion of legalized gambling, and after what was described as "sharp exchanges among the panelists," Leone worked on a compromise, but came up at the end of the day still calling for a moratorium.

Commissioner John Wilhelm, who represents casino workers in Las Vegas, said he wasn't happy with the draft, which he called patronizing, and said, "What's missing is a recognition of the fact that people like to gamble. I don't support telling people what they ought to do."

Wednesday, the Commission voted 5-4 to consider a moratorium on new gaming until more is learned about gambling's social impact. The bitterness that emerged following the vote was rancorous and noisy, with Wilhelm thundering that the commission "doesn't give a damn about jobs" and saying "I don't think there is going to be any report here unless it is balanced."

Commissioner J. Terrence Lanni, chairman of MGM Grand, agreed, saying, "The process is in trouble. If we don't have a sense of compromise, we are lost." Lanni said he was considering writing a minority report.

Chairwoman Kay C. James, whose resignation as dean of the business school at Pat Robertson's Regent University at the end of the school year was announced earlier in the day, said the panel will finally reach consensus on a range of issues, and added that any reports of the commission's demise "are greatly exaggerated."

The squabble over a moratorium could throw even greater focus on Internet wagering.