I vaguely recall the debate over legalized gambling, back in the day. It was billed as a cure-all for declining revenue as the state’s resource-based economy started running out of resources.
I suppose it has helped. Those machines do rake in millions for the state’s general fund. The problem is, the people being raked are those who can least afford it. Peek into any Montana “casino” on any given day, and see if you can identify the high rollers. There aren’t any. Just shift workers and the semi-employed burning through grocery money in the hope of a $40 jackpot. I think the main reason I detest gambling now is my decades of associating it with people like that: Slackjawed folks tossing cash down a toilet after work, bragging over a piss-ant payout without mentioning the whole lot of losing that preceded it.
At least the keno parlors stink less than they used to, now that indoor smoking is forbidden in most public places. That’s about the only thing that’s cut into gambling revenue over the years. It dropped about 10 percent right after the smoking ban went into effect. Bar and restaurant owners complained bitterly about it, as did their best customers. That figures. People who ignore the odds on one pastime tend to ignore the odds on others. But business is still pretty good. Gambling isn’t going away.
Well, they’re all adults. Nobody’s putting a gun to their heads. State-sponsored gambling is good in one way: it’s a tax paid only by the people who are willing to pay it. Folks who go berserk over forking over a few more bucks to support schools or parks are just fine dropping 100 times that amount at a gas-station casino. Still kind of bothers me, though. I’m not sure it should be government policy to exploit human weakness.
We are pretty much in agreement here. Arkansas only recently got a lottery, but there are people pushing for casinos. Casinos are close enough, just over the state line in both Oklahoma and Mississippi.
The AR lottery has been beset with scandals, thanks to the over paid lottery chief hired from out of state. (And now fired.)
That left a bad taste in my mouth from the beginning. Why not pay for a state citizen to go study the lottery hands on elsewhere, them come home and run it. No, they hired a rich, out of state sleeze who thought he was his own law.
The most I could bring myself to risk was a couple of dollar tickets every time we went to the gas station to fill up. Won a little, lost a little. I don’t see it as morally wrong if people just treat it as a hobby and spend no more on that hobby than they can afford. The trouble is tempting people who can’t afford to play and can’t control the impulse.
It’s not that I never waste money, I do. But I expect to GET something when I hand over money. A book, cup of coffee, a meal, lipstick, SOMETHING!
A man recently won a million after buying an “Arkansas Millionaire” ticket. Those tickets cost twenty dollars. I can’t make myself risk twenty knowing I”ll probably get nothing. Twenty dollars can buy half a tank of gas for my little car, a bag of groceries, a car tag, a book, a haircut. All a better deal than five seconds spent scratching a soon to be worthless card.
A lot of people who are regular patrons of the casinos across the state line do not seem like people I want to rub shoulders with. My dad was a policeman and was always dead set against gambling because he felt where ever gambling went, some sort of graft or organized crime would follow.
‘tribal’ casinos-r-us here in CT……it’s a proud tradition.
The sad thing is that photo could have been taken in any number of locations in Montana. Kind of like the eruption of box stores in the Flathead Valley. Kalispell has lost all of its charm in my opinion.
Dave Knadler says
It makes us sound old to say that, but I think you’re right.
Paul Davies says
Good piece. You are right that no one puts a gun to the head of the gamblers. But lawmakers – whose first sworn duty is to protect the public – have made it easier for folks to gamble by putting casinos ‘on every corner.’ More troubling, gambling is very addictive. Studies show that anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of the slots players in local casinos are problem gamblers. Gamblers at the casinos in the Philadelphia area come an average of 3 to 5 times a week or 150 to 200 times a year. Essentially, the casino business model depends on addicts. As such, the government has enabled a business that mainly feeds off of problem gamblers. Yes, the casinos generate jobs and tax revenue. But those benefits come with costs, just as legalizing cocaine would also generate jobs and tax revenue, but also create huge social costs. Somehow, gambling has become an accepted way to fund the government but that doesn’t make it right.
Dave Knadler says
Totally agree. I have to wonder where all that money would go if it wasn’t being dropped on really poor casino bets. New shoes for the kids? I don’t know.
I read about a bank that is offering savings accounts that pay half the normal interest (1% instead of the whopping 2% I am getting). With the other half the bank has a lottery and someone wins some money every month. I thought it was a great way to get folks that needed a gambling fix to save.
Dave Knadler says
Not a bad idea, really. Not sure I’d jump on that, but at least it isn’t designed to relieve people of every excess buck they have.