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Friday, February 11, 2005

Gambling's Effects on Family Assets

From my most recent NPR commentary:

A few years ago, I was driving from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to Fort Rucker, Alabama. Two of my friends were driving with me…each in a separate vehicle. It was mid-December, and the route took us into the midst of a blizzard, and my friend Lou and I stopped in the town of Metropolis, Illinois.

While we weren’t comfortable driving down the highway at 70 miles per hour, we felt safe enough driving around town. Well, after seeing the giant Superman statue and the two restaurants, we decided to go back to the hotel to ask the clerk about the night life. She recommended the riverboat casino, so we headed on down.

I had never been in a casino of any kind, before. I expected a glitzy place with high rollers, well dressed men and women sipping drinks and laughing, happy faces of well-heeled people who were having a good time with their money. I expected to be out of place in my boots and jeans. After all, isn’t that what it looks like in casinos in the movies?

Well, the movies lie. I didn’t see any high rollers, or well dressed men and women. I saw people who were dressed like me – jeans, works boots, flannel shirts on men, and women dressed not much differently. These weren't rich folks spending their excess cash, they were working men and women spending their paycheck! The mood of the place in general was pretty somber. The faces of the people gambling, whether they were playing blackjack, craps, roulette or video terminal slots, were typically vacant, or in some cases, pained, as they gambled their money away.

It struck me then, and sticks with me today – gambling establishments steal from the poor and the working class. While those people with money make investments that promise some sort of return, lower and middle class workers throw it away at casinos, hoping that they might win a ‘big one’. Where should that paycheck money have gone? Furniture? Appliances? Food? Rent? Electricity? Heat? It became painfully clear that casinos do not help their neighbors – they steal from them.

Once again this year, the gambling and horse racing industries are pushing for addition of slot machines at tracks, and maybe casinos, in Kentucky. They’ll use attractive arguments about how the taxes will fund education, and how Kentucky loses money to places like Indiana and West Virginia, and how we would keep it in the Commonwealth. They’ll also push for a referendum, because they know a huge ad campaign can convince Kentuckians into an expansion of gambling. But those ads won’t mention that the money that goes to gambling would have gone to real things…things bought from Kentucky’s businesses….things that help Kentucky’s families.

That night in Metropolis, Illinois, I won $125, but Lou lost $250. That’s the way it works. Except for the casino, gambling is always a losing venture for everyone…gamblers, their families, and the businesses where the money would otherwise have been spent.


  • Your post is true in many respects but their is also a portion of the population that gambles for entertainment purposes, and I've noticed that on the weekends, sometimes even to hook up with a date.

    By Blogger Dynamite, at 12/24/2007 04:47:00 PM  

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