Gambling can be a terrible addiction, made worse by government’s addiction to money while turning a blind eye to the harm Casinos create.
But while the discussion about casinos usually focuses on where to put them, and how to divide up the spoils, too little attention is paid to the huge issue they represent for governments and fairness.
As one participant in a conference on gambling observed a few years ago, “the Canadian government gambling model focuses on revenue generation and glosses over harm.” If you’ve ever sat in a bar watching punters feed loonies into video lottery terminals, you’ll know that a lot of gambling has nothing to do with the Hollywood image of tuxedoed high rollers betting vast sums on a roll of the dice.
Much of it is cheap and sordid, vulnerable people enticed to throw away the rent money in the eternal quest for the Big Score.
Knowing that the industry preys on human weakness, governments sensibly used to make it hard to gamble. Casinos were only available in distant places like Reno and Las Vegas, or restricted to private clubs to ensure that low-budget punters didn’t get in to squander that week’s pay.
Because they didn’t depend on them for revenue, governments could be the disinterested regulators that potentially dangerous activities require.
Then they discovered what the Mob has known all along – that gambling generates huge amounts of cash for those who own or control casinos. After that the jig was up.
Governments’ insatiable search for money, born of an inability to control their own spending, unleashed a wave of state-promoted gambling dens to relieve the credulous of their cash.
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