Some Prominent Liberals Recognize the Dangers of Gambling — Do Springfield Lawmakers?
Some Prominent Liberals Recognize the Dangers of Gambling — Do Springfield Lawmakers?
Written By David E. Smith   |   01.28.08

The liberal New York Times editorial board published an op/ed earlier this week critical of gambling in general, and lottery games in particular, saying “…it is the humble and ubiquitous lottery that looks like the most insidious form of gambling.”

The Times continues to say, “Lawmakers pretend that lotteries make new taxes unnecessary. But lotteries are a tax, an inefficient, badly targeted one that is having a devastating impact on poor communities and beyond.” (CLICK HERE to read the full editorial.)

But the liberal editors at the Times aren’t alone in identifying and expressing their concerns with gambling. A few months ago, Illinois’ own liberal United States Senator Dick Durbin was quoted in the Springfield Journal-Register saying “Most of the people who go in [to casinos] are low-income people and elderly people who lose money that they can’t afford to lose,” Durbin said. “That to me seems like a wrong way to finance the important programs that we need in this country.”

He urged Springfield lawmakers to consider other “honest” sources of revenue. Reading between the lines here, one could suggest that Senator Durbin believes that creating new revenue sources via gambling isn’t a legitimate function of government. I would agree. (CLICK HERE to read the entire article.)

Maybe it is just a coincidence, but Durbin’s predecessor, another liberal from Illinois, U.S. Senator Paul Simon (1985 – 1997) initiated The National Gambling Impact Study Commission. In his statement delievered to the United States Senate on July 31, 1995, Simon listed the many problems associated with gambling: moral, economic, political, social, criminal, personal, and familar.

Senator Simon said it well in that address:

“Faced with needs in education at all levels, with growing health care costs that afflict both Federal and State governments, and with decaying cities and decaying infrastructure, the States have two options: Tell people the truth and ask for the taxes to pay for these needs, or combine the growing practice of issuing bonds, states don’t call them deficits and find some ‘easy’ source of revenue, like legalized gambling. The courageous path is too infrequently taken.”

The National Gambling Impact Study Commission would later recommend a nation-wide moratorium on any new gambling in 1999.

But even more recently, another liberal/moderate, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, made headlines cracking down on illegal gambling. According to the Chicago Tribune, Dart suggested that gambling is far from a “victimless crime,” and he called on the legislature not to expand gambling in the state. “The amount of families destroyed by this, you can’t calculate,” Dart said.

And he is correct. The New York Times reports that one “study in Texas showed the more expensive tickets selling best in the most poverty-stricken ZIP codes, ones heavily populated with Hispanics and blacks. Money that should be used for food and housing goes up in a whiff of hope instead.”

The Times editorial critizes states who are rushing to gambling as an “easy” solution to budget problems, saying “[t]hey can dress it up all they want in slogans about buying a ticket and a dream. But the states are encouraging behavior that is too often addictive and ruinous for people who can least handle the burden.” [Emphasis added.]

And this is especially troubling considering the fact that the National Gambling Impact Study Commission found that problematic gambling and addiction doubles within a 50 mile radius of a newly built casino. Think about it: nearly half of Illinois’ population will be within 50 miles of the proposed Chicago casino.

Gambling addiction is linked to bankruptcy, home foreclosure, depression, and white-collar crime, all of which lead to family stress, and can lead to domestic violence, divorce, murder, and suicide.

Playing these kinds of odds against your constituents is not good public policy!

David  E. Smith
Dave Smith is Illinois Family Institute’s executive director.  He and his wife of 25 years are blessed to be the parents of eight children. David has 20-plus-years of experience in...


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