Below are reflections from Jane Ramsey, executive director of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA), on this year’s American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, which was held on Aug. 20 to 23 in Las Vegas.
By Jane Ramsey
Executive Director, JCUA
When I stepped off the plane in Las Vegas, I was astonished by the immediate sight of hundreds of slot machines, literally steps from the gate where we deplaned. This soon became a familiar sight, as slots are everywhere — in the hotels, in the restaurants, in the grocery stores — truly everywhere. The flashing lights lure with the promise of winnings and fun. For me, the flashing lights and their presence at virtually every turn was a sad reminder of the exploitive and predatory nature of casinos.
Dr. Calvin Morris, executive director of the Community Renewal Society, and I, were in Las Vegas to speak on a panel spotlighting Chicago organizing entitled “Faith Activists: Justice, Community Revitalization and Reconciliation,” at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA).
The meeting was moved to Las Vegas after the planned Chicago location became untenable due to the protracted hotel labor dispute at the time of ASA’s planning. Thus, understandably, the conference was moved and Las Vegas had enough hotel spots to provide for the more than 5000 members.
As JCUA has learned over the two decades plus we have been fighting the introduction of casinos into Chicago, the industry lures individuals, families, seniors, and low income communities to its doors. For the most vulnerable, lowest income targets, the casinos have offered money to get started and free transportation, and promises of so much more — all to profit from the targets’ larger losses and dashed hopes.