Legalized gambling only fuels economic crisis
Amid recession, politicians eye gambling for revenue. Recriminalizing it is wiser.
(Page 2 of 2)
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To be sure, it's not going to be an easy effort. Today, the casino lobby has massive political pull. For example, in Illinois, the second state to legalize riverboat casinos, the House of Representatives voted 67 to 42 in 2005 to recriminalize Illinois casino gambling and thereby create jobs. But this legislation was procedurally killed by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
By converting consumer dollars into nonproductive "gambling dollars," US state-sanctioned gambling constitutes a drain approaching half a trillion dollars per year in lost indirect consumer spending.
That's why the 2009 US International Gambling Report (a compilation of decades of academic and government research on gambling) called for a worldwide effort to pump-prime economies by eliminating legalized gambling.
Today, as states face budget shortfalls, the initial benefits of legalizing casinos – jobs, increase in commerce – look appealing.
Instead, via new treaty provisions, the US State Department needs to extend the Internet gambling ban and, with the help of the Group of 20, encourage other gambling prohibitions worldwide, thereby reasserting ethical US economic leadership, restabilizing financial systems, and restoring consumer confidence.
Omaha, Neb., is a good example to emulate. There, repeated efforts to build casinos have been rejected for decades. One 1997 proposal to save the Omaha racetrack by building a casino resulted instead in the racetrack being bulldozed and the land being used for a new extension of the University of Nebraska plus a high-tech office park.
Casinos are easy to transform into educational facilities, similar to the way in which communities often transform Olympic dorms and cafeterias into health, business, and educational facilities.
Under the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution, Congress should be permitted to pump-prime the economy by prohibiting government sanctioned gambling. The Obama administration must reassert strategic ethical business leadership and recriminalize gambling to lead the world economy.
To paraphrase George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the economic mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them."