Right Side: Roll Of The Dice

With So Much Conflicting Data On The Benefits, Gambling Is Best Left As It Is

Gambling is not a threat or a benefit to society

I’m not sure who to believe. Depending on with whom you talk, bringing gambling to town will result in one of two extremes: moral depravity or tax dollar jackpot. Which means slot machines are just like gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana. If we allow it, it will either lead to better lives for all, or it’s the dinner bell for the four riders of the societal apocalypse. It appears the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

First things first. Get over the freak-out factor on gambling. People do it all the time. It’s called house flipping, the stock market, investing (the website Kickstarter, etc.) and in the state of Virginia, the lottery, or Colonial Downs. Further, an entire ad campaign has been quite successful in coining the phrase “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” That’s usually your money, by the way. Also, bus trips leave Hampton Roads weekly to shuttle seemingly nice, law-abiding, church-going, non-drug peddling people to Atlantic City. It’s all gambling, and no one’s seriously making the case that it’s bringing ruination to society.

Next fallacy stop on the roulette wheel is the home for those who think gambling will provide a windfall of tax dollars that will help schools, provide funding for transportation, and ply the pockets of our first responders. It’s the same roll of the dice as the Sportsplex, bringing a baseball or NBA team to town, or the now whisper-quiet Half Moone Cruise Terminal. All were pitched as salves to bolster dwindling state and federal dollars. The goodness of gambling is in the same bag of tricks. Message to the town criers of such promises: get a job in TV weather forecasting. It costs taxpayers far less money.

The reality can be found in a fuzzy place called Gray Area. One of the most exhaustive studies on the benefits and detriments of legalized, promoted, local gambling was done by the California State Library. In summary, the report stated that gambling is, well, both good and bad. Factors such as the amount of visitors from outside the region, existing state lotteries, traffic patterns, law enforcement needs, demographics, whether restaurants are allowed inside the casinos, and so on and so on, are part of the complex equation that is localized gambling. Many a city council has looked at Las Vegas as the shining beacon of hitting 21. But, even Vegas has its snake eyes. Community leaders complain of high-tech, high-paying jobs staying out of the area due to the “activities” of some of the patrons. Adding more mud to the water is a Chicago Sun-Times headline that stated, “Studies of Gambling Deal Few Answers—Conclusions Elusive on Social, Economic Impact of Casinos.”

So where does that leave us? With the undeniable answer that with so much conflicting data, an existing state lottery system, a little-attended Colonial Downs, and a complete inability to compete with the marquee gambling markets elsewhere, that gambling is best left where it already is. Why would city leaders approve an enterprise that has mixed results at best, and is responsible for something called Gamblers Anonymous?

I do believe, though, that while gambling is nothing but a silly transfer of funds without a transfer of goods, people should be able to do it as often as they like. Just like they should be able to drink, smoke and procreate as often as they like.

But the freedoms of individuals are not the same as the needs and responsibilities of localities. Betting your own mortgage on red 51 is your business. The city betting their money, a.k.a. your money, is everyone’s business.

Dave Parker hosts The Dave Parker Show on AM 790 WNIS weekdays from 10 a.m.–noon. He can also be heard each afternoon on US1061 and reached at dparker@wnis.com. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two daughters.

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