top of page

Casinos and tone-deaf politics

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

Have you ever sat through something that just made you squirm – that awkward please-make-it-stop sensation as someone was speaking, acting, or singing?

That happened to me in church one beautiful Sunday morning. Everyone was in good spirits … until a man began to sing a solo. To say it was awful would be a compliment. That ol’ boy was caterwauling!

“Whose bright idea was this?” I wondered as I began to break out in a cold sweat. “Who gave him the microphone?” It sort of quenched the Spirit, if you know what I mean.

But he had no idea how bad he was singing. He could not tell that the vast majority of the congregation was silently begging for his song to be over, for this vocally-impaired soloist was completely tone-deaf, oblivious that what he thought he was singing was not what we were hearing. Tone deaf is never good when your role is to sing.

Politicians can be “tone deaf” as well. They get in their bubble, believe that what they are legislating, or issuing executive orders for, or giving speeches about, are things that their constituents really want to hear.

Too often they are completely oblivious to actual needs. They engage in political caterwauling, never realizing for a second that folks are looking at each other in awkward wonder, trying to discern why their elected officials do certain things that don’t really relate to what the people need or want.

Case in point: The Alabama Legislature appears ready to bring yet another casino bill. Current state law does not allow true casino gaming, so it would require legislation and very likely a vote of the people.

I can tell you from firsthand experience that any gambling bill will suck the air out of the State House. It will be all-consuming, turning into a source of contentious debate, committee action, public hearings, paid polling, and lobbyists doing the bidding of their casino clients. Other much-needed legislation will be derailed as the rarified air on the upper floors of the State House is inhaled by casino operators and casino industry lobbyists.

This song has been sung many times in the Alabama State House, and it’s never sung well. It shows up like a bad soloist, making everyone in the congregation of Alabama squirm uncomfortably.

Why is gambling so important inside the State House, but never so important to most folks outside the State House? It is a classic case of being politically tone deaf, where legislators think they are singing a great song, while really missing the mark.

How many times have you talked with friends about how badly you wish we had casinos in Alabama? How many dinner table conversations or water cooler discussions at work have you been a part of that centered on how badly you, your friends, and your family wished that Alabama could just please get some casino gaming action?

I’m going to wager (pun intended) that the overwhelming majority of Alabamians can’t recall ever expressing a burning desire to have a casino nearby.

Instead, people are talking about completely different priorities.

Voters want things done that will help them through this crazy era of post-Covid-election-integrity-Bidenomics-energy-costs-border-security-crime-in-the-streets-schools-need-improving-madness that we have endured for the past several years. Nowhere in that litany of real and abiding issues are Alabamians begging their politicians to please give them a casino to make their lives better.

A recent Center Square Voters’ Voice Poll found that voters overwhelmingly picked inflation as the top concern needing to be addressed. Next on the list was illegal immigration, then crime, then jobs/economy.

A 2023 poll by the Center for Excellence in Polling shows that 92% of Alabamians are concerned about crime rates where they live, with 72% believing that Alabama’s cities have more concerning crime problems. Eighty-one percent of respondents strongly support special efforts to enforce election integrity as we come into the all-important 2024 election year.

Earlier this year, another survey of likely Republican voters showed that 94% believe parents should have a choice in where and how their children are educated, with 91% saying they believe parents, not the government, should choose the best education environment for kids.

Just last month, The University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Business issued a report noting that a survey of business leaders concluded that the Alabama Business Confidence Index is still in the negative and that the business mood has gone down slightly since last quarter. Confidence in the U.S. economy as a whole was even lower.

The point is that politicians need to sing to their audience, not to themselves. They need to sing (and govern) in a manner that does not look, sound, or feel like they are so tone-deaf that they are missing what really matters to the people who elected them – things like crime, school choice, inflation, election integrity, and jobs. Those are the things that folks talk about because those are the things folks care about.

Casinos? Not so much. That’s tone-deaf politics.

14 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page