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The gambling racket (& other vile inconsistencies)

| Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

OK, let's see a show of hands of all those shocked — SHOCKED! — that there's been — GASP! — gambling going on in McKeesport. One, two ... no, that fella's just scratching his head and the woman is only adjusting her earring. ...

The state Attorney General's Office announced on Thursday charges against 16 people in what it alleges was an expansive and well-organized gambling ring. Video poker, sports betting, lotteries, etc. Among those charged include a sitting McKeesport councilman, a couple of ex-McKeesport cops and even the current police chief of Forward Township, McKeesport's former deputy chief. Bet if they'd placed one of those “Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER” stickers on their video poker machines, the AG would have let them off scot-free. ...

The ultimate question surrounding the crackdown is this: Who'd these poor schmucks honk off? Perhaps somebody wasn't getting his or her cut? Or maybe it's just the state, perturbed that its organized racket is being diluted? ...

The great hypocrisy surrounding this crackdown is this: Local municipalities license these machines and mandate the bogus “For amusement only” stickers when they know full well what's going on with them. It's the biggest and longest-running nod-nod, wink-wink cluster cluck ever invented. ...

Count moiamong those surprised that Attorney General Kathleen Kane would prosecute such a case. If a state ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, how can unequal treatment of gamblers under the law be constitutional? State-sanctioned gambling — think the lottery, casinos and glue-trotter tracks — is virtuous but video poker machines with knock-off switches are a vice, is that it? ...

Anybody care to wager (ha!) that smaller, localized “illegal” gambling operations have done more over the decades to stimulate local economies than the state's monopoly “gaming” operations ever could? ...

In other vile inconsistencies, Gov. Tom Corbett criticized a plan by Democrat gubernatorial wannabe Allyson Schwartz to slap a 5 percent severance tax on natural gas. Mr. Corbett, the Republican of Shaler seeking a second term, said the levy is part of an agenda “to tax the industry out of our state.”

Indeed, such a tax would be as invidious as it would be insidious. Just like the governor's proposed massive, whopping and economy-killing increase in the wholesale tax on gasoline and diesel fuel. What's bad for the goose can't be good for the gander. ...

Running a close second for the prize for Mush for Brains in Matters Economic is Katie McGinty, another Dimmycrat governor hopeful. She wants to increase the state minimum wage to $9 an hour, including a cost-of-living adjustment. “One of the best ways to get the economy moving is to put money into the pockets of people who work,” she said.

Never mind that artificially raising the wage floor by government diktat will reduce the number of jobs. Brilliant! ...

Yet another Democrat guber, John Hanger, looks at his party's crowded primary field — seven now and maybe 10 ultimately, he says — and sees victory. Mr. Hanger says his “‘people's campaign' can prevail.” Which is code for “I can't win.”

Colin McNickle is Trib Total Media's director of editorial pages (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

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