Gambling a bad bet to pay for transit

The spiraling cost of Honolulu’s Area Rapid Transit System is keeping all of the state’s residents on their toes. We have all witnessed in the news or in person, if you live on Oahu, as the government has exercised their power of imminent domain to condemn properties.

They have geared up and are now busy building the above ground system for moving people. I haven’t heard any talk about how those found in the way of progress are being treated or if they received fair market value for their properties. But if history is to be believed and repeated, more than likely, what they got was far from what they were due and certainly not enough to put them into anything comparable to what they had.

Sadly, that seems to be the trend in cases like this, like it or not. With the projected cost going up by the billions on almost every turn, paying for the project has become a daunting pursuit and now they are even calling the whole project dead.

Not only is that sad, it is also hard for me to fathom. Although I’m a not a genius in the process involved in such a huge undertaking, it would appear to the average person that something is dreadfully wrong and someone has made some dire mistakes in calculating how they were going to pay for the installation of the system and also the upkeep and maintenance as it’s being put to use.

When I first heard that, it seemed to me that all of that criteria should have been nailed down and prepared for from the onset, but then again, who am I to know, right?

Now they are bandying about with all the ways to help keep it alive by taking money from so many other sources, all of which would seem to come right out of the pockets of that taxpayers. I often wonder too if that cost is spread out over all the counties or just the C&C of Honolulu.

I have a sneaking suspicion that it will ultimately be paid for by everyone in the whole state. Undoubtedly, they will figure out a way to spread out the cost in some clandestine manner that seems to take place behind our backs.

It may be cloaked inside a bill the way they add riders, to give all those involved in that process at least something to count as a win for them in exchange for their vote. Unfortunately, that’s politics.

What concerns me is that they are now bringing up the idea of legalized gambling to support the rail project. The idea of gambling in the state of Hawaii has reared its ugly head from time to time, as a potential source of revenue. But it is always knocked down by those with the stronger resolve to resist that temptation and common sense prevails.

I say this because of firsthand experience with gambling’s affect on the population. All my life, I’ve known people in Hawaii that travel on a regular basis to Las Vegas for gambling. Some people have a regular schedule and go two to three times a year or even more. They win or lose, but always come home happy.

But it would be different if they didn’t have to travel to gamble. I lived in Guam for a few years in the 1980s during which poker machines were made legal and installed in all the restaurants and bars. It was fun to play. I was a waiter at the time and made a rule with myself that I would only gamble with any tips I received that were in the form of coins, sometimes up to $10 a night. I never touched the folding money and I was always true to myself.

But others I knew didn’t have the self control to be able to stop. They would sit and play away their entire paycheck in the course of a few hours and then go home to their family broke and devastated. For some, gambling became a disease and it ruined their lives and broke up many families. It turned some into criminals to support their gambling habits and others even ended up in jail or committing suicide because of their complete loss of personal pride.

If you have funds enough to travel to Vegas to gamble, you also should have enough to lose and still survive. If you don’t have sufficient funds then don’t gamble. It’s really as simple as that. But those with little or no self control will wither under the stress of their gambling addiction.

Please, those in government that will be considering the move to legalize any form of gambling in the 50th state, seriously consider the consequences you are unleashing on the general populace. If you seriously think we have a crime problem in Hawaii now, just wait until you see the increase in criminal activity that would result from continual access to gambling.


Jack Custer is a resident of Kalaheo.


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