Government-sanctioned big-time gambling falls in this category.
I've got no problem with the neighborhood or office football pool or similar friendly competitions. I've even entered one of those a time or two myself.
But if it were up to me, every state lottery and casino would be shut down now.
It strikes me as particularly unhealthy for agencies of state governments, like lottery commissions, which ostensibly work for voters and citizens like you and me, to entice vulnerable, desperate people to squander their dollars on the false promise of a big payoff.
How many impoverished families have found their poverty deepened because an easily-accessed lottery ticket has incentivized them to addiction? The number is probably incalculable.
Lotteries and other sanctioned gambling make our states (and by extension, all of us) bigger enablers than parents or spouses who bankroll their loved-ones' cocaine or crack habits.
I have similar sentiments about Internet gambling, especially relative to its effects on young people. The unreality of the Internet can lead some, especially the young and vulnerable, to think that all that cash they're losing online is like Monopoly money. Not real. And it's very easy for young people, thrilled by the hunt, to say that they really are over age 18 and know what they're doing.
That's why I'm pleased with the legislation passed by Congress yesterday:
Placing bets over the Internet was effectively criminalized by the federal government yesterday, as lawmakers work to eliminate an activity enjoyed by as many as 23 million Americans who wagered an estimated $6 billion last year.Want to waste your money? Go out for dinner. Go to a movie. Buy a book. Pay for the toll of the person behind you on the expressway or anonymously for that family at the next table in the restaurant. Or, sheesh, I don't know, give to the Boys and Girls Club, the Red Cross, Lutheran Social Services (the biggest non-governmental social services system in America), your favorite college or university, or your local church. All of them are a safer bet than a lottery ticket, that's for sure.
Attached to a port-security bill signed by President Bush yesterday was the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which prohibits online gamblers from using credit cards, checks and electronic fund transfers to place and settle bets. The law puts enforcement on the shoulders of banks and other U.S. financial institutions, some of which fought the legislation.
It strikes me that whatever one's philosophical bent--conservative, liberal, moderate, libertarian, religious, irreligious, whatever--it makes no sense for the state to be in the business of enabling addiction.
What do you think?