Legalized Gambling: the Arguments For and AgainstWith the huge popularity of online gambling, the national legalization of gambling in the United States has become a hotbutton issue for politicians. Though it is unlikely to ever be legalized at the federal level, the discussions of state level legalization are growing. Currently, in the USA, non-tribal gambling is legal in three locations – the State of Nevada; Atlantic City, New Jersey; and Detroit, Michigan. In addition to those land-based casinos, riverboat gambling is legal in some areas along the Mississippi River, and tribal casinos are authorized anywhere a Native American tribe holds land.
Arguments AgainstThere are many arguments against gambling including the preferences of many religious groups and individuals who have moral reservations about gaming for money. Many of those are credible arguments against gaming, but they are not sound arguments against the legalization of gaming. Sound arguments against the legalization of gaming come from a more pragmatic perspective. For example
- Gambling Attracts a "Bad Element" In fact, in the 21st century, gambling establishments do not attract the so-called “bad element” that they did back in the days of Bugsy Siegel. Places like Atlantic City and the State of Nevada have strict regulation of professional gaming and the Internal Revenue Service monitors all gaming establishments for the flow of money in and out. It is true that anywhere there is a huge amount of money changing hands, there will be an element that tries to get its hands on it illicitly, but in the locations in the USA where gambling is legal, it is easier to rob a bank than to cheat a casino.
- Gambling Addiction is a Huge Problem Gambling addiction truly is a huge problem, causing sufferers to lose money that should be earmarked for the mortgage and for care of their families. Gambling addicts, however, will invariably find places to lose their money, legal or not, and the big gaming establishments put millions of dollars into programs to help problem gamblers. The legalization of gambling, in fact, ends up helping problem gamblers more than hurting them.
- Casinos and Other Gambling Establishments Ruin a City There is a feeling among many people that once gambling is legalized, their town will suddenly look like Las Vegas with towers and glitz on every street corner. That, however, is not the case. In many small communities in the State of Nevada, for example, there are small, elegant casinos and card rooms that would be overlooked if one were not seeking them. The form that casinos take can be entirely regulated by city ordinance.
- Legalized Gambling Will Cut Into Tribal Revenues This is an ever growing concern. Since 1979 Native American tribes have been allowed to build casinos anywhere, whether gaming is legal in the community or not. As a result, the Native American community has a virtual monopoly on gambling most places in the United States. These so-called Indian Casinos are taxed at a lower rate than traditional establishments and the regulation upon them is minimal as compared to the state regulated facilities found in Nevada and Atlantic City. Furthermore, in a democratically guided republic such as the United States, it is entirely inappropriate that, despite the fact that a community has voted to restrict gambling, a protected group can come in and provide gambling, contrary to popular opinion. The only way to combat that is to legalize private gambling, allowing the huge revenues of gaming establishments to flow to the community at large.
Arguments in Favor
- Gambling Stimulates the Economy Healthy, well-regulated gambling attracts players with money. True, a good portion of that money flows into the casino, but a good portion of it flows to restaurants, stores and local services too. One casino can change the fortunes of a failing community.
- Gambling Increases Local Revenues In addition to the general stimulus to the economy, gambling institutions are taxed at high rates, and those taxes go into state and local coffers. Based on personal experience, it is easy to tell when a driver gets to the Nevada state line on the major highways that go from California east – the roads suddenly become fresh and new and the potholes that are common on California highways disappear. This is entirely due to the fact that the thriving Nevada casinos are taxed heavily so that the community does not have to bear the burden of keeping the roads fresh.
- Some Form of Gambling is Legal Most Places While the full casino experience is not legal, most places in the US allow dog and/or horse track betting as well as card rooms and the lottery. These forms of gambling should not receive preferential treatment over casinos.
- Gambling is Fun Players in most of the USA have to travel long distances to get to a legal gaming institution, and that is not fair to them. Most people enjoy putting a quarter in the slot or sitting down to a few hands of cards, and they should not be restricted from doing so just because they live a thousand miles from the nearest casino. There is nothing in the constitution of the United States that addresses gambling – restrictions are purely local prejudice, and, in the enlightened 21st century, it is time for that prejudice to stop.