Legalize gambling in South Carolina. And by gambling, I mean casinos, slot machines and parimutuel betting.
South Carolina already has scratch-off games, so let’s not argue that there is some high and noble reason to deny the idea of gambling.
The usual “oh, but people will abuse it – they’ll leave their kids in hot cars while playing slots – they’ll lose their mortgage payments – woe, woe, woe,” won’t wash either. People will – and DO – abuse pretty much ANYthing.
They abuse alcohol and it’s legal. They abuse marriage vows, automobiles, fast food, slow food, ALL food, religion, people, highways, tobacco, free speech, money, caffeine, sugar, Wal-Mart, television, language, the internet (some will say I’m doing THAT right now), animals, prescription drugs, the confidence placed in them by the voting public … Probably every legal activity and thing is abused. Folks will consume beyond moderation which lead to consequences to themselves and others.
Should EVERYthing be banned because SOME will pervert? I love cheeseburgers, but some people shouldn’t eat them for health reasons. Should I be denied a thick, juicy patty with tomatoes, pickles, spicy mustard and ketchup on a toasted sesame seed bun because some guy with high cholesterol will leave his kid in a hot car while he chomps down on a Hardee’s Black Angus Thickburger with cheese?
Put down that beer! Somebody can’t hold their booze so YOU can’t wash down your pulled pork sandwich with your choice of brew. Oh, and you can’t have a pulled pork sandwich because some religions think it’s devil meat.
As for those of faith who believe there is a moral repugnance to gambling, I’m sure I won’t convince them otherwise. But it’s not the job of government to legislate morality. Besides, I’ve not been able to find biblical denunciations of gambling. Yes, there are admonitions about “love of money,” and Proverbs says “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.”
“Love of money” could be interpreted as to negate such activities as working for promotions (which mean more money), changing jobs (for more money), getting an education (for more money), participation in the stock market (where most retirement funds are invested), real estate speculation/investment and more – like taxation. As for Proverbs, gambling – regulated gambling – isn’t “dishonest money.” And when someone was “casting lots,” it was for the purposes of making decisions, not shooting craps.
As long as we’re on the issue of religion and dishonest money, since some preachers and tele-evangelists have defrauded their respective flocks of millions of dollars over the years, should there be an argument for banning or regulating offerings in church services? Or rather, since SOME have abused the practice, should ALL be denied?
And of course, there are those fanatics that deny their children medical care for religious reasons. Which then, should be denied – the zealots or medicine?
I’m all for preserving sweet traditions, “family values” and those social interactions of more innocent times. But South Carolina’s archaic laws and sensibilities are denying progress and, with it, opportunities and necessary services for the population. Right now, churches, CHURCHES can’t even have an simple raffle because it’s considered “gambling!” No matter that a church may need money to repair a roof or help maintain or even establish a soup kitchen. Can’t have a raffle because someone might leave their child in a hot car while buying a raffle ticket.
As for the more unsavory ancillary activities that are often associated with gambling (drugs, prostitution, loan sharking, gaudy shows and watered down liquor), it’s not like South Carolina – or any other state – is without them now. And gambling addiction? Yep. It’ll happen. But, as with abuse, one man’s addiction is another man’s recreation. If only those things that AREN’T addictive were legalized, we would be Amish. By the way, some people have a sex addiction. All those in favor of the government not allowing THAT, raise your hand. Uh huh…. thought so.
Gambling is lucrative commerce for state and local governments and profit monsters for many businesses and industries. Without even counting the current economic distress, South Carolina is desperate for revenue – not just the state, but businesses and individuals. For the state, there are revenues from ticket sales (often, half of the ticket sales go into state coffers and the other half makes up the “jackpots”) and winnings are – say it with me – taxed. As many have pointed out, gambling is voluntary taxation. And arguing about not wanting to make money off of misery or sin won’t work either. South Carolina, like EVERY state, rakes in muli-millions of dollars from the sale of alcohol and tobacco. So be careful in your righteousness.
Maryland paid out more than $1 billion in prizes last year just from Keno, scratch-offs, state and multi-state lotteries and parimutuel betting. Over $493 million was deposited into Maryland’s State General Fund. This without slots and casinos. The opportunities for South Carolina are substantial. The first is the licensing of casinos in major tourist locations. Slot parlors could be established almost anywhere (within reason) and with a rich horse tradition in the state, equestrian racing and even dog racing (with strict regulations on treatment during and after the dogs’ “careers”) could also be offered (Camden, Aiken and Charleston).
Follow that with the accompanying businesses and industries that spring up to support or otherwise benefit from the gambling community and there is a huge source of revenue available.
As long as bordering states continue to restrict gambling, the out-of-state customer potential is huge. Throw in the non-gambling business that will benefit (gas stations, hotels, eateries, shops, automobile rental, recreation, etc.), and the state treasury gets more and more gilded.
Naturally, strict regulation would be necessary to protect the gambling public. The industry, the establishment owners and the customers would need and demand it. And there are plenty of resources and historical precedents around the country available for the state to research and sound and effective policies it can implement.
Will there be downsides? Yep. Every new venture has them as does doing nothing. But isn’t record unemployment a downside? Isn’t one of the nation’s poorest performing school systems a downside? Isn’t a mid-20th century business environment a downside?
I’m gonna get a cheeseburger. You can bet on it.