Friday, November 18, 2005

Recently, the Illinois House of Representatives voted to eliminate legalized gambling in Illinois.  Of course, they did not expect legalized gambling to be ended in Illinois.  They realized that the state Senate would not approve the bill.  It was supposedly passed in the House to send a message to the gambling industry.

The real question though is this: should gambling be ended in Illinois?  About three weeks ago, the former mayor of Pekin was convicted in a court of law of illegally using a city credit card for private purposes at an area gambling establishment.  In the Peoria Journal Star today (11/18/05, front page) was a story that a former treasurer of a local town has been accused of stealing money that was reportedly spent gambling at the area establishment.  

Two former government officials.  Two instances of possible criminal behavior related to gambling.  The probability is that these are not the only two instances that have occurred recently.  Could there be more?  It seems to be likely.  Plus, these are two instances of public officials within a month of each other.  How many individuals are stealing from private companies or committing other crimes to support a gambling habit?  How many have not yet been discovered?

Gambling does not create any new goods for the consumption of the public.  It is one of the oldest vices used to redistribute income.  We know for a fact that over time there are always more losers in total dollars lost than there are winners in total dollars won.  That extra lost money is now being redistributed to governments and to the owners and employees of the gambling establishments.  Is this the way income should be redistributed?  Is this the way government should collect money—preying on a vice?  Is this not encouraging the indulgence of that vice and the illegal activities that occur because of that vice?  Could the State of Illinois be indirectly encouraging illegal behavior to increase governmental revenues?

Early in our country’s history gambling was a major source of government revenue.  Overwhelmingly, the states ended legalized gambling to discourage the negative aspects of that vice.  Do we really think that we are now too sophisticated to not be negatively affected by the negative aspects of legalized gambling?  Or have we just decided that the additional income is too important to lose.  Isn’t this another instance of self overriding common sense?        


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