Thursday, September 29, 2011

Should States Allow Online Gambling

'Poker Hand Rankings' photo (c) 2008, Blaine Rumsey - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

There was a time when gambling was solely the preserve of the mob.  Today it is big business with everyone from corporate giants to Native Americans getting in on the game. Poker stars of today are well known entities, now that tournaments are televised.  The popularity of poker is based in the idea that unlike many other casino games, there is an element of skill involved.  One must not only be able to play the odds, but the player as well.

Each time a new casino opens, there is a debate as to what it offers a community.  Some see casinos as offering middle class jobs, while others believe that casinos are actually a drain upon a community.  Should the government be in the business of gambling, when addiction ruins families?  When I think about this debate, I think about alcohol. No, not shaken not stirred, but the attempt to make alcohol illegal during prohibition. Much of the same reasons that we cite as justification to eliminate gaming today, are exactly the same as were cited to end the sale of alcohol -- and we all know how that turned out.

The truth of the matter is that all vices, whether it is gambling, prostitution or drinking are socially engrained.  Even when people aren't actively betting money, they are gambling.  Who hasn't bet with their partner about doing a chore? Is allowing online casinos any worse than the state being involved in the lottery, which by the way has it roots in the numbers game, formerly run by the mob?  We know that the odds of winning the lottery are worse than being struck by lightening, and yet every week people line up to their tickets.  Playing the lottery is about dreaming, more than it is actually winning. I know that when I buy my ticket every Friday, I always say, "dear lord if you don't see fit to let me win, please let someone who loves me win."  This has become my lottery mantra.  For me, it comes down to a dollar to dream.


The latest casino article discusses the growing momentum for the legalization of online poker.
More and more US states are now considering legislation on the state level that could pave the way for offering legal online casino and poker sites to their residents. The District of Columbia has already passed such legislation and California, Nevada, New Jersey, and Iowa have all considered similar legislation.

New Jersey's state government already passed one bill that would allow the state to offer online gambling only to see it vetoed by the governor; a second similar bill has just been re-introduced, with hopes it will be passed the second time around.
With the current debate over the national debt, casino gambling could be one way to fund social programs as well go towards paying down the debt.  Even within the states that are considering the legalization of online gaming, the fact of the matter is that gambling is already occurring.  The profit from these illegal gaming houses are going to rich a small percentage of the population instead of benefiting the state as a whole.  Since we cannot stop gambling from happening, regardless of how many task forces are created or special stings on the gambling houses, the state might as well allow online gambling and then reap the profits.

The issue should be about what the profits are spent on, rather than whether or not an activity that occurs anyway should be legal.  Social projects need to be funded and the cost of education needs to be reduced.  The fact of the matter is that the debt must be paid down, and social services are needed today, more than ever.  This means the government needs an influx of cash and since American are notoriously resistant to paying more tax, online gambling could potentially allow and extension on the ridiculous tax cuts currently in existence.  Services aren't free and they don't come cheap and therefore it's time to start considering other options.