Dicey Way to Balance Budgets

The worse the economy, it seems, the greater the lure of gambling. An d nowhere is the lure greater than in state capitals.

That unfortunate truism is on tawdry display right now. Legislatures in more than two dozen states are geared to consider gaming expansion. This fall's ballots will have gambling initiatives in at least four states.

Maryland, Pennsylvania, and others are considering the addition of slot machines at race tracks. Bible Belt states like Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee, where state-sanctioned gambling long has been frowned upon, are weighing the introduction of state lotteries – possibly joining the 38 states that already have them.

A drop-off in tax revenues is stirring this pot. Getting the public's dollars through lotteries or a cut of slot-machine income is politically much easier than raising taxes. And states are loathe to see potential revenue going to nearby states with gambling.

The social costs are shoved into the background. They shouldn't be. Gambling eats away individual and family incomes, encourages crime, and undermines the work ethic. And the gambling industry has lured politicians to its cause by giving big money to campaigns.

Citizens should question where this gambling express is taking them.

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