America’s Stance On Gambling

All around me, whether I’m going to the store to buy groceries, watching a baseball game, or listening to my favorite radio station, I hear Gus. Who, you ask, is Gus? Well, he’s the “Second Most Famous Groundhog in Pennsylvania” (Trailing only Puxatony Phil and just ahead of, well, who knows?). What in the world is a groundhog doing on TV, at the store, and all over the Commonwealth? Gus is the Pennsylvania Lottery’s mascot, who urges PA residents to “keep on scratchin’!”

Most people who hear Gus, and virtually everyone who actually plays the lottery, has no idea of how bad a bet the lottery is. I’ve heard estimates that for every $1 you spend on the lottery, you expect back between 50-65 cents. Big jackpots, fancy scratch off gimmicks, mid-day drawings, and Millionaire raffles don’t change this fact: For every $1 you spend, expect back about half.

However, as a Ron Paul supporter and, more importantly, a supporter of liberty and freedom, I really don’t mind when people spend $20 on a lottery ticket. What I do have a problem with is this double, and sometimes triple standard that the government has when it comes to gambling.

For now, let’s stick to lotteries such as the PA lottery. Why is the government promoting gambling at all? Well, the PA lottery “benefits older Pennsylvanians.” Really? So, taking money from one group of people (lotteries that have such poor odds will attract the low income crowd), and redistributing it to older citizens is a “benefit?” (Don’t forget the cut that the state invariably takes.)

Why is one form of gambling pushed and promoted, while others are illegal and kept underground? I can’t bet on an NFL game legally in PA or any other state, save Nevada. If you start a card game you are at risk of being shut down and tried. Then we have horse racing. I can go to the track and legally bet on tomorrow’s Belmont Stakes.

But if I come home and want to play a few hands of online poker, I have to jump through hoops just to fund an account due to the poorly written, unenforceable UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act). This act, tacked onto a must-pass port security bill, attempts to outlaw gambling on the Internet. There was no real debate on the bill, and it is questionable whether the bill is even enforceable.

The reality of the situation is this: Gambling is not going away. With government pushing it onto us (but only in certain forms), why would they want it to evaporate? Why are we making some forms legal, some illegal, some legal but only in certain states, some legal but only if state run, etc etc? We are wasting valuable time and resources that could be better spent advancing freedom and liberty across the country.

In closing, I will cite an article by Donald J Boudreaux, chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University. The article deals with the politics of prohibition, or in this case semi-prohibition that can’t really be enforced. This reasoning also applies to the war on drugs or other assaults (or attempted assaults) on personal freedoms.

In the article, Boudreaux, referring to the end of alcohol prohibition, writes:

“With no end of the Depression in sight, Washington got anxious for a substitute source of revenue.

That source was liquor sales.”

Fast forward a few years, and replace “liquor sales” with “all forms of gambling” and you just might have a recipe for legalized gambling nationwide.