In the late 1980s, I was a newspaper delivery boy for the Bangor Daily Newspaper. My route included Bayside, home of the Northport Yacht Club, the marina, and the cottages that make up this secluded community. One day, a yacht-owning customer bought a paper, then asked me about the hottest topic, Maine was about to adopt a lottery program to “help pay for K-12 education throughout the state.” As a kid of 11, I had no opinion on this topic; I just sold the newspapers. But, the conversation got me thinking, and that following Sunday, I sat down to the editorials and read both sides of the contest. Including a political cartoon that has never left my mind.
As I have aged and experienced, this cartoon returns to mind quite often. As does the premise behind lotteries and casinos, the house always wins. While living in New Mexico, the gaming commission complained that with revenues from lotteries slumping, less money could be paid to the state for K-12 education, causing a cash shortage requiring higher taxes for public education. With their high six-figure salaries, their enormous cash outlays, and income, the gaming commission could not find sufficient money; I am not buying the excuses! But, the house always wins. Believe it or not, the announcement that higher taxes were looming because of a slump in lottery buying led to higher sales of lottery tickets, and the “cash crisis” was obverted.
Worse, casinos saw an increase in gambling attendees, which also helped to avoid a cash crunch causing higher taxes. The increase in sales on lottery tickets and casino gambling also saw an expontential increase in gambling debts, gambling addictions, and gambling-related crimes to feed the people’s gambling obsessions, worsening the public burden on gambling support programs and increasing the costs of these programs. The house always wins!
Richard Brookhiser authored “What would the Founding Fathers Do? (Our Questions Their Answers), and on pages 97-99, discusses President Thomas Jefferson’s debt and his pitch to the Virginia Legislature to hold lotteries arguing both for and against state-sponsored lotteries. In Jefferson’s remarks, we find the trouble and the social consequences of state-sponsored lotteries. Pres. Jefferson stated, “If we consider games of chance immoral, then every pursuit of human industry is immoral; for there is not a single one that is not subject to chance.” Further pointing out that farmers bet on the weather, Captains of ships bet their lives and crew lives, builders bet on market conditions, etc. Jefferson’s second point on state-sponsored lotteries makes two compelling points to today’s discussion, that of the addicted gambler and the responsibility of the state to protect them against their actions, and that building, shipping, trade, farming, etc. all produce or handle real products and services that pay off the debts; but games of chance are pure diversions and thoroughly unproductive.
Brookhiser noted, “Libertarian Jefferson saw chance everywhere; Republican Jefferson saw the damage that pursuing games of chance create, and both Jeffersons dueled to Jefferson’s death.” Worse, both of President Jefferson’s ideas are found in current society and the gambling crisis prevalent in every state in the American Union! We find thoroughly unproductive state lotteries raking in cash through tickets and casinos, balls, and scratch-offs, creating a regular addicted population of gamblers for the government to expand to take care of, protect, and guide. As a conservative, I ask continually, why is it the government’s job to protect and guide the addicted through their own choices, behaviors, and lifestyles? If President Jefferson were here today, I would ask him why he considers it the government’s job to engage in thoroughly unproductive lotteries and games of chance and why the addicted need government intervention?
Since President Jefferson is not here to ask, I put the question to you. With the expense of holding games of chance, casinos, and lotteries, is this money well-spent by the taxpayers? Since these games of chance, lotteries, and casinos breed social problems, creating poor people, and destroying morals, ethics, and values, is the government responsible for the addicted people crushed by gambling? I have worked on Indian Reservations, where gambling is a significant industry, and I witnessed how much casinos create trouble, damage, and chaos. My heart wept at the lives destroyed, the potential wasted, and the land blighted through gambling, and I cannot shake wondering why the state would allow and support the gambling and games of chance.
Brookhiser quoted President Jefferson, “… As in those of insanity, idiocy, and infancy, etc., it is the duty of society to take gambling addicts under its protection; even against their own acts, and to restrain their right of choice of these pursuits, by suppressing them entirely.” I say NO! If you choose to gamble until you are addicted, it is not the responsibility of anyone but yourself. Sure, you will need help to overcome the addiction, but society should not foot the bill! Like every other addiction humans become entangled with; society should not have to foot the bill to help the addict. Helping the addict is the role of the church and non-profit, non-government-supported relief agencies, not the taxpayer! The house always wins.
Using Arizona as an example, the Arizona Lottery gave back to the community $226.14 Million in 2020. In 2019, the Arizona Lottery, using a Multi-State Lottery Association scheme, exceeded $1 Billion in revenue. Speaking of how the house always wins, see the disparity between raised and given back? More than $8000 Million went to overhead, salaries, and other sources, but somehow Arizonans are expected to feel grateful for the $226.14 Million in crumbs returning to Arizona. Why again is the state sponsoring games of chance, creating new and “exciting” games of chance, and helping gambling addicts created through state-sponsored lotteries?
In researching for this topic, I have reviewed resources for and against lottery winners’ ravages, from the lottery’s curse, where people have gone broke and are worse off than before winning to the exact opposite where up to a decade after winning, the winners are better off financially and emotionally. The deciding factor always comes back to the individuals involved’ attitude and choices, just like everything else in life, how you choose, how you evaluate consequences, and what you do with this information determines your destiny. Yet, I return to the same questions, time and time again, why is the state sponsoring games of chance? Where does all the rest of the money go? Why is the state involved in addiction recovery programs when they caused and supported those populations becoming addicted in the first place?
A “Liberty FIRST Culture” needs to be asking more challenging questions and demanding more answers that make sense logically, that open doors for success, not addictions to unproductive behaviors. I learned early that gambling was a tax on stupidity and have avoided the lure of lotteries. The curse of gambling addiction has affected my family, city, state, and country for far too long without accountability from the state for their abhorrent actions and behaviors in supporting lotteries and casinos. We, the citizens of America, need to understand and have clear information to improve choices and government directions. Where casinos and lotteries are concerned since the house always wins, who owns the house?
© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
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