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.