Gambling as a cancer

Many states have turned to lotteries.  They are appealing and they can be sold as ‘money for education’; but is this the way to raise money?

Catholics do not see gambling as a vice until excessive.  Protestants do, saying it promotes the idea of something for nothing:  ‘Lotteries are … symptoms of … selfishness… (they promote) vic­timization of the poor (and) … give sanction to (a) … wasteful lifes­tyle …’ said the Ohio Council of Churches.

Noted conserva­tive George Gilder said the urge to risk is natural and healthy when channeled into planning and work, as in starting a small business or prudent investing.  But when this urge goes into games of pure chance, the results are destructive.   Those who favor legalized gambling say it reduces illegal gambling, but the opposite is the case.   The odds in illegal gambling are better and many people find it more exciting.  As more forms of gambling are legalized, gambling becomes more acceptable and illegal gambling spreads.  This is worst for the poor who gamble more often and a larger share of their income.  They believe getting ahead is due more to luck than to hard work, thrift, and foresight, and gambling reinforces this.

Another consideration in the spread of gambling is the affect it has on the 4%  who become compulsive gamblers:

  1. Ron P: ‘I degraded myself in every way possible. I embezzled from my own company; I conned my six-year-old out of his allowance’ .
  2. Archie K: ‘After I woke up from an appendectomy, I sneaked out of the hospital, cashed a bogus check, and headed for my bookie.  I was still bleeding from the operation’ .
  3. Irvin J: ‘I’ll never forget coming home from work at night, looking through the window at my family waiting for me, and leaving to place a couple more bets.  I was crying the whole time . . ..’
  4. Phil K:     ‘Even when you win you still lose because you always want to parlay the money into a bigger win – then you lose it all’.

We might consider England’s example.  There one must give written notice 48 hours before placing a bet (to reduce impulsiveness).  There are no free drinks at gambling tables, there is no extending credit, and casinos can’t advertise or list their numbers.

We might publicize how losing has affected the many instead praising the luck of the few.

The 20th Century Fund put it well,  ‘Gambling’s get-rich-quick appeal appears to mock capitalism’s core values: discipline, education, work habits, thrift, prudence, adherence to routine, and the relation between effort and reward’ .