Legalized Gambling - Just a Con Game?

Yesterday's MSNBC article titled "Is Hawaii gambling with paradise?" got me thinking about the early 70s when I lived in New Jersey and voted down the initial proposal that would legalize gambling in Atlantic City.. after I moved the proposal was affirmed and the casino industry moved into that south Jersey city. Here are a few clips from the MSNBC piece:
Hawaii is one of the last two states with no legalized gambling, but lawmakers facing billion-dollar budget deficits and hunting for ways increase revenue are thinking about allowing casinos in tourist-filled Waikiki or on Native Hawaiian lands.

Proponents say casinos would draw much-needed new money and jobs into the long-troubled, tourism-dependent economy.
Gambling supporters dispute claims that legalized gambling would spread crime. They're more focused on the potential for gambling to jump-start the economy, especially if a casino could get running within a year as they claim.
I thought it interesting that 48 other states had some form of legalized gambling.. did not realize that gambling had that kind of reach in America.. the stat must include state lotteries. I tend to agree with Tom Landry's message in the image above.. legalized gambling comes with a price tag that is paid by society as gambling ruins lives.

I am not an expert on the topic but I do think that, generally speaking, legalized gambling has not delivered on it's promise to boost state coffers and fund schools and other government obligations. Seems to me that the promise to keep taxes from being raised is just a smokescreen.. I think the lion's share of gambling revenues go to out-of-state corporations and a mere pittance of those monies stay in state.. but I may be wrong?

What do you think Hawaii should do? Does your state or country have legalized gambling?


  1. Apart from the obvious question of moral decay and the effects of gambling on society... If I am not mistaken, Nevada has no personal income tax because the Casino tax revenue makes up for it. When the current Missouri Casinos are giving up enough moulah to the state to allow me to keep my portion I may concede to their claims. Until then I agree. It's all a smokescreen! Hawaii, don't be fooled!

  2. Hawaii has so much going for it already as a desirable vacation spot, I can't believe that adding gambling would either increase tourism significantly or increase the amount of money people spend while there. I could be wrong.

  3. Research on the impact of legalized gambling shows that Hawaiians and the tourists will lose not gain from a casino. Casinos have been found to increase local bankruptcies, embezzlements and suicides. When a new casino is built, gambling addiction rates double within a 50-mile radius, and casinos are linked statistically with increasing debt, DUI arrests, and domestic violence.

  4. "...legalized gambling comes with a price tag that is paid by society as gambling ruins lives."

    So do alcohol. Does that mean we should reintroduce prohibition? Tobacco addition destroys health and even kills. Shall we make that completely illegal? Overeating has certainly ruined many American's lives. I say we ban dessert to protect people from their own habits! Come to think of it, automobile accidents destroy thousands of lives a year. It's time to go back to the old horse and buggy, then.

    My point is that just because some activities negatively impact some lives, it's not sufficient justification for making or keeping it illegal. We must weigh the negative impacts against the curtailing of personal freedoms.

    How do the negative aspects of legalized gambling weigh against the freedom of people to gamble? I'm not sure, but I tend to err on the side of freedom when in doubt. Then again, I am one of those freedom-loving Americans.

  5. @sid - Do you also support the legalization of other vices like prostitution and drugs? What do you think of the stats that Joe presents in his comment?

  6. I support the legalization of prostitution and the decriminalization of drug use. Prostitutes deserve safe work environments, legal protections, and access to good health care. Right now their work is often dangerous, abused, and unhealthy because it's forced underground by moralizing law makers. Similarly, drug addicts belong in hospitals, not prisons.

    Joe didn't cite any sources for his statistics, so I don't think much of them. But supposing they are from a reputable study, I'd have the following questions/comments:

    "gambling addiction rates double within a 50-mile radius"

    Are we talking from 1 to 2 addicts or from 10,000 to 20,000? The order of magnitude of the initial problem is very material.

    "casinos are linked statistically with increasing debt, DUI arrests, and domestic violence"

    Correlation or causation? My bet is the number of bars in a region is similarly correlated with these social problems. Again, is it a good enough reason to re-introduce prohibition? If not, why is it a good enough reason to keep gambling illegal?

  7. @sid - Legalizing prostitution would probably further expand the reach of the govt.. not sure that it would do much for the health and working conditions of prostitutes though.. do you think the govt would mandate health insurance and force pimps to provide 401k plans?

    Which drugs would you decriminalize? Heroine? Would addicts be able to get a fix with OTC generic heroine or would they need a RX?

  8. Heh, nice way of making a caricature of my opinions.

    First, I'm not exactly sure how legalizing prostitution would expand the reach of the government - not that government reach is much of concern of mine anyway. That more of a conservative's bogey man. It's more like replacing one type of government involvement, law enforcement, with another that already exists in all workplaces - safety regulations.

    Also, I never said anything about legalizing pimping. As commonly practiced, pimping is exploitation of others. Pimps are often abusive and take an hugely unfair cut of the money earned by the people doing the work. Such behaviors would be illegal just as they are in all other work places. If a prostitute does find him or herself in an abusive or unsafe situation, they could seek legal recourse without fear of prosecution themselves just as in any other job. That's how their work conditions change. Forcing the trade into the shadows just traps workers by giving them no way of escaping the abuse.

    With respect to drugs, note that I said decriminalize drug use, not drug sales and distribution. The manufacture, distribution, and sale of highly addictive drugs would remain illegal. The victims of drug abuse should be treated as patients with a mental problem, not as a criminal. Addicts could be forced into treatment just as anyone with sever enough mental problems can be now. They would get the help they need to end the addiction without fear of prosecution and without accumulating a criminal record. Right now, we too often punish the victim and over crowd our prisons with non-violent offenders.

  9. @sid - I guess I am not understanding how legalizing this would not simply turn pimps into agents and johns into clients? Either way I think that prostitution is wrong.. generally speaking it objectifies and demeans women to satisfy the lusts of men that seem to have no conscience. Legalizing it would mean that we as a society condone the behavior.

    Point noted about going after the drug sellers rather than the users.. I missed that.


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