With legalized gambling,

the poor always lose

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

The government should neither sanction nor profit from the vices of its citizenry.

Framing the discussion of casino gambling as a competition between state revenue and a potential increase in "gambling addiction" fails to pose the proper question of its value to the commonwealth.

What we should be asking is whether there should be legal gambling at all.

Why do we have legalized gambling? Is it really legal to bring a black-market activity into public view, or is it rather a mechanism to raise revenue for the state? Does gambling benefit anyone other than the state? For every wager, there is a winner and a loser. The bookmaker takes a vigorish, and the state — whether supplying the lottery or sanctioning horse racing — is, in effect, just a bookmaker.

State involvement is wasteful. That revenue from the lottery that goes to public education is just a fig leaf. For every dollar played in the lottery, 28 cents go to education, and 10.6 cents go to overhead.

We could get the same $649.7 million for schools by increasing the sales tax to 6.1% from 5.3%, and we could abolish the lottery.

The specter of gambling addiction is used as an argument against gambling, but addiction is just an extreme case of the loss of household income that goes into every scratcher, slot machine or trifecta bet.

We should be honest about what gambling really is: a tax on the poor and a vice for all.

Robert Gambill.


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