LOUISIANA voters Saturday will choose between a black liberal
Democrat and a white conservative Republican in a gubernatorial
election that - whoever wins - could deal the state's gambling
industry a losing hand.
Polls show Republican Murphy Foster is likely to defeat Democrat
Cleo Fields. If Foster wins, it would signal the continuance of a
conservative tilt among voters in the South and across the nation.
It would also give the Republicans one more governorship,
continuing a historic shift at the state level.
Foster, who switched to the Republican Party before this race,
would be taking the office his grandfather and namesake held a
The elder Foster was elected in an era in which the
scandal-ridden Louisiana lottery was a corrupting influence in
state politics, and Foster abolished it. Today, legalized gambling
is again a pervasive force in Louisiana, and both the present-day
Foster and his opponent say they're for sharp curbs on the gamblers.
Louisiana has had horse-race gambling and charity bingo games
for decades, but the real push toward legalized gambling began with
the revival of the lottery in 1990. The state legalized floating
riverboat casinos and video-draw poker machines in 1991. It
authorized what is billed as the world's largest land-based casino
in New Orleans in 1992. A permanent casino at the foot of Canal
Street is scheduled to open next summer.
Except for the lottery, which was done by public referendum, the
other forms of gambling were legalized by the Legislature without a
popular vote. When video-poker parlors began to crop up near
churches and schools and residents discovered that the Legislature
had no means by which to keep them out, public opinion began to
turn. Major efforts to restrict video poker were defeated in 1994
and 1995 legislative sessions by well-heeled gambling lobbyists.
That attracted the attention of federal investigators, and in
August a bombshell dropped: A wide-ranging investigation of the
gambling industry became public, focusing on whether state
legislators have received illegal gifts or favors from gambling
lobbyists. Subpoenas went out to lawmakers, lobbyists, and gambling
figures. Although no indictments have been returned yet, many of
those named did not seek reelection and contributions from gambling
interests became politically radioactive.
An analysis of campaign-finance reports analyzed by the New
Orleans Times Picayune showed that interests named in the subpoena
gave more than $250,000 to state legislators in 1993-94. …