Have Some Fun, Smash a Slot Machine

Smashing a slot machine is a deeply satisfying experience.

When I was doing research for New York's Promise: Why Sponsoring Casinos is a Regressive Policy Unworthy of a Great State, I learned that the great New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia -- who served from 1934 to 1945 and is viewed by many historians as the greatest mayor in U.S. history -- personally and publicly smashed a number of slot machines during his time in office. La Guardia hated slot machines. He called them "mechanical pickpockets" and created a brochure for New Yorkers entitled "You Can't Win in the Slot Machine Racket."

La Guardia did not believe slot machines are wrong because they're illegal as much as he believed that they're illegal because they're wrong. Slot machines cheat ordinary New Yorkers, especially those lower-income New Yorkers who can least afford it, and that was pretty much all La Guardia needed to know. I dedicated my book to him and put a photo of him smashing a slot machine on the cover, and for months now I've wanted to follow in his footsteps -- stand on his shoulders, you might say, and personally apply the working end of a sledgehammer to one of these machines.

Which is exactly what I got to do last week in Albany, New York, in a public park near the Capitol steps.

The timing was good, because on November 5 New Yorkers will go the polls to decide whether to change our Constitution so that politicians can bring a bunch of slot-machine-filled casinos into our state. I want to share with you two short videos -- one focusing on the actual smashing, and the other on the Q and A with the press that followed.

Who knew that think tank work could be so much fun? Leaders like La Guardia smashed slot machines because slot machines take money from the vulnerable and poor and deliver a large portion of the take to politicians. Leaders like New York's current governor, Andrew Cuomo, want to legalize slot machines and spread them across our state for exactly the same reason. I'm with La Guardia.

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