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Gambling Economy

It seems that there is a human weakness for gambling.  Maybe it’s the thrill of the action, maybe it is the temptation of getting some fast money without having to work for it, but whatever the reason it is clear that people like to gamble.  I was first introduced to gambling as a high schooler growing up (too) close to Yonkers Raceway.  A childhood friend of mine had a dad who liked to bet on the horses there, and I went with them once and was hooked.  My sophomore year in high school began with a teacher’s strike that lasted about a month and for many of those nights I found myself at the track, gambling $2 in a race with a total risk tolerance of about $10 for the night.  I learned about addiction to gambling though as I saw many grown ups there every night I came, including my friend’s dad.  And unlike me, it was clear that these grown-ups were gambling money that they could not really afford to lose.

Later on in life, while running a very large real estate lending business, I was presented with numerous opportunities to finance gaming properties and I always turned them down.  To me, gaming is a form of stealing, and almost always from people who cannot afford it.  Casinos games are rigged inasmuch as the odds are tilted in the house’s favor.  This means that over time, players lose and the house wins.  Who would want to play in that game regularly?  And, lotteries are the same, but only with worse odds.  In the end it seemed to me that gaming is sure to result in higher taxation, as the money that is lost by people who cannot afford to lose will need to be replenished by a broadened social safety net.  In essence it’s a wealth transfer from all taxpayers to the casino owners – and with a lot of heartache along the way.  Sounds pretty dumb to me.

With so many cities and states embracing gaming as a “boost” to their economies, I would suggest that voters and their representatives think this through carefully.  To me, gambling is a parasitic industry that preys upon human weakness and robs people, mostly the poor, which leads to a tax on all of us, gamblers and non-gamblers alike.  And, this doesn’t even consider the damage done to the lives of the gamblers and their families.  Gambling as an argument for economic stimulation just seems like another dumb idea by people who are without any good ideas to stimulate real economic vibrancy.

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