Exposing the Dark Side of Gambling Addiction


By Annie Mueller
For Casino Watch Foundation

The Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE) merged in 2004 with the Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees (UNITE) to form the massive Union coalition known as UNITE HERE, which boasts almost a half million active members. The combined Union protects those in hotel, casino, and restaurant industries, among others (1).

Since 1977, states such as New Jersey have been attempting to prevent the seemingly inevitable connections between organized crime and those who exert any sort of authority at casinos. Part of New Jersey's attempt included a Casino Control Act which requires union officials to be of "good moral character" and not associated with any organized crime. After a huge legal battle in 1981, in which Local 54 of Atlantic City sought to have the Control Act eliminated as infringing on its members' various constitutional rights. The battle went all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 1983 upheld the Control Act. However, five years later, "an academic study concluded that the Casino Control Act had been only marginally successful in preventing or eliminating organized crime influence in New Jersey's casino unions" (2).

Unions obviously provide valuable services to many employees who need the representation of a larger group. When it comes to unions and casinos, the services are often diverted from under-represented employees to organized crime. As Roger Dunstan of the California Research Bureau points out, "The sheer volume of money, cash in particular, that is generated by gambling, makes it a tempting target. Organized crime has been successful infiltrating ancillary businesses... Often labor unions are used as the vehicle..." (3).

Barbara A. Lee and James Chelius, in their article about government regulation of labor-management corruption, point out that infiltration through unions appeal specially to organized crime because of the legal protections guaranteed to unions, which make fighting such criminal activity "particularly severe in the union setting, because the protections guaranteed to unions complicate the task..." (4). The legal rights put into place to protect the underdog become shield behind which the powerful of organized crime can hide.

Dealing with this problem of organized crime in unions is difficult at best. No one wants to infringe upon the rights of the low- and middle-class employees, nor fight with the unions, which are powerful in their own right. Yet allowing the cover of union protection to serve the purpose of organized crime is equally unacceptable.

1.UNITE HERE! website, About page; Bruce Raynor, General President, and John Wilhelm, President/Hospitality Industries; Accessed 3 August 2007.
2."Brown v. Hotel and Restaurant Employees"; Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; last modified 3 July 2007; accessed 3 August 2007.
3.Dunstan, Roger. "Gambling in California." January 1997. California Research Bureau. Accessed 3 August 2007.
4.Chelius, James, and Barbara A. Lee. "Government Regulation of Labor-Management Corruption: The Casino Industry Experience in New Jersey." Journal Title: Industrial & Labor Relations Review. Volume: 42. Issue: 4. Publication Year: 1989. Page Number: 536. Accessed 3 August 2007.