Thursday, August 25, 2011

States and Stakes

Cash-strapped states across America are turning or attempting to turn to legalized gambling to shore up revenue collection without alienating tax-paying voters. This is an odious notion that can not work. First, it is a tax on those least able to afford it, the poor and ill-educated who tend to gamble the most. Second, it spawns gambling addiction, a disease that ultimately carries tremendous societal cost. Third and lastly, gambling has been an invitation to organized crime almost everywhere it has been legalized, further burdening law enforcement and potentially corrupting our political class and regulatory authorities (if they are not corrupt already). The other aspect that is not considered in the gaming debate is whether gambling revenues really aid the state. Look at Las Vegas and the state of Nevada and you will find that despite casino revenue pouring in for generations, Nevada suffers extreme rates of bankruptcy, foreclosure, and unemployment and the state has trouble balancing her own books. The same could be said of New Jersey and her fiscal travail despite decades of legalized gambling in Atlantic City. The libertarian in me militates against the state deciding how anyone spends or squanders the money that they have earned, but so far as casinos or state lotteries go, the fact is states with legal gaming are just as bad off as states without, so it must be said legalized betting solves nothing.

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