Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sin Down, States Suffer

Gambling is not as recession-proof as believed. Apparently, folks are not gambling as much or there are more outlets competing for a relatively fixed pie.

“When budgets get tight, expanding gambling always looks to lawmakers like the perfect quick-fix solution,” said John Kindt, a professor of business and legal policy at the University of Illinois who studies the impact of state-sponsored gambling. “But in the end, it so often proves to be neither quick nor a fix.”
Indeed, the advent of lotteries, sold to publics as a way to finance education, did not really lead to more money for schools, but let legislators move money around.

One possible boon to the federal government would be the regulation of internet gaming. A few years ago, internet gambling was essentially made illegal as it was snuck into a bigger and more popular bill. Since then, there has been much lobbying for a change, and Obama has been for it. Rather than have lots of offshore (including in Canada) servers and companies with no regulation, the idea would be allow not only the internet sites (which cannot really be blocked) but also legalize the means by which money travels to and from the sites.

As a self-interested gambler, I would be in favor of the regulation of internet gambling. I would not expect it to solve the budget deficit or even make that much of a dent, but the current reality of semi-enforcing an unenforceable and hypocritical law (lotteries are legal despite being numbers rackets with far worse odds and payouts) is hard to defend.

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