Tuesday, August 12, 2008


When times and finances get tight government frequently turns to a quick fix for its problems. Over the years, I have seen government officials think that approving gambling in their communities will solve budget shortfalls. Unfortunately, budget difficulties may be improved in the near-term, but there are unforeseen consequences that are rarely taken into consideration.

I have witnessed local, state, and federal governments in Arizona, Minnesota, and California approve Indian Gambling Casinos in the hope that revenue developed would improve impoverished conditions on the Indian Reservations. Long-term results show that most of the enormous profits have failed to reach the Indians and end up in the hands of casino operators hired to manage operations under contracts with many loopholes to the operators’ advantage. Various investigations have also indicated some criminal elements skimming Indian profits.

Originally, Las Vegas was dominated by criminal elements, but local and state government eventually realized that they had to make the operations function under strict open oversight. The mob was ostensibly forced out and Las Vegas casinos have thrived. The casinos still make huge profits, and the guests feel the games are now cleaner with chances of winning greatly improved.

The lure of a quick buck is the hook that all gamblers bite into, but the statistical odds prove that in the long run gambling is not a winning proposition.

Years ago when I lobbyied for The National Association of Broadcasters and NBC stations, I worked closely with then Congressman Tim Roemer (D-IN), because broadcasters wanted the ability to advertise gambling. Tim was a strong voice against gambling in his congressional district and firmly against any broadcast advertising. He suggested that I read a very interesting book called The Luck Business by Robert Goodman. I strongly recommend this book (if you can find it) and I can tell you that it convinced me of the numerous implications gambling inflicts on our communities as a whole.

Over time, gaming advertising was permitted and it became a huge revenue resource for radio and television stations. In fact, Jim Rogers who I later worked for, owned and operated NBC television stations in Las Vegas and Reno where he personally led the successful legal fight that ultimately opened gambling advertising. The efficacy of this issue remains open to debate in our democracy and in my mind.

Surely broadcasting outlets have benefited greatly from gambling advertising and local, state and federal governments have opened a huge, new lucrative revenue stream. On the other side of the coin, there have been many off-setting and unwanted consequences flowing directly from citizens expanded access to gambling operations. While the games are cleaner due to oversight, the criminal elements still tend to have an influence on both Native American and Corporate owned casinos. Crime statistics indicate a direct correlation to gambling with large increases in police operational expense, increased prison populations, substantial increases in gambling addiction, bankruptcies, resulting home foreclosures, and financial problems that lead to greater state and federal welfare obligations.

State and multi-state lotteries are a huge con- job, too, that hide behind the guise of usually providing new funding for education. The truth is that only a very small portion of the States’ takes get to the schools and the pay-outs to the States’ Treasury is absurdly high. Most lottery operations have substantial operational expenses that benefit the operating contractor of the State disproportionately. The odds of winning a state or regional lottery are not in the player’s favor by a long-shot.

Gambling has long been a historical problem with many consequences, since before the birth of Christ. It is noted in The Bible, Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” I would say that THE BIG GUY left little doubt as to how he felt about gambling.

Considering the upside and the downside of gambling and the mathematical odds, you would be a complete fool to get hooked. Apparently, it is easier said than done. This addiction has hit many families. It struck mine 60 years ago when an uncle lost his huge Midwestern farm as a result of gambling debts on the ponies. I have been blessed, because I get mad as hell when I lose $5.00 at the casino and I remember just how hard I worked years ago to earn my first five bucks. Call me cheap, but I think I am both smart and lucky to have not swallowed the gambling hook.

Caveat emptor…let the buyer beware.


1 comment:

Ensign EP said...

Commander, you will be glad to know that in my almost 45 years on the planet, I have never stepped foot in a casino or any other sort of gaming establishment. I have, however, seen both friends and family fall victim to the lure of "winning it big," with very unfortunate outcomes.