Vices have always been considered a slippery moral slope in America. Like alcohol and marijuana, gambling is treated by many as a societal evil. Presently, most states either regulate or prohibit gambling completely. The common belief among its detractors is that the legalization of gambling will give rise to gambling addictions and other associated issues.
The Legal Landscape
Listing the states where gambling is legal is tough because it’s an umbrella term. Some states allow lotteries but not race tracks. Some won’t approve casino proposals but do allow gambling for charitable purposes. But America’s heaviest-gambling states are Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, New York, Mississippi, Indiana, Louisiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Nevada.
Outside of Nevada, sports gambling has been generally off-limits under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). Last year, US politicians started pushing hard to legalize sports gambling and have made some headway. Even Utah, a state that prohibits all gambling, has become a voice against PASPA, stating that it infringes on states’ rights.
It’s fair to surmise that each state should have the choice of whether to legalize gambling. While the morality argument is hard to prove, and can be endlessly debated, gambling could be a way to fund other, more positive aspects of society, like public schools and hospitals.
The Corporate Angle
Corporations are salivating at the potential profits that could be derived from gambling. Whether it’s investing in a casino or developing the technology to facilitate gambling, there is money to be made on the corporate side – and the ripple effect would be immense. Developers, law firms, and cyber-security professionals would have the opportunity at new business, and more gambling websites and off-track betting locations would set up shop. Casinos alone employ thousands of people, and that doesn’t include the shops, bars and restaurants in the surrounding area that benefit from their presence.
The Rise of State-Run Casinos
A casino in Delaware? Maybe one in the Pacific Northwest? If gambling is legalized, states will most likely consider casino proposals, which could see casinos popping up both in major cities and in less populated areas. This could change the US landscape (similar to what happened with Nevada) and has the potential to boost tourism to unprecedented levels in many states. Each casino could conceivably create thousands of jobs and generate an almost obscene amount of tax dollars.
Is it Hypocritical?
Outlawing gambling while enjoying profits from tobacco and alcohol is hypocritical, as the same moral argument can be made against either of those vices. Why make money off substances that directly lead to thousands of deaths every year? There’s no logical explanation, which is why gambling stands a good chance of being fully legalized by most states. Reasons to the contrary seem arbitrary.
Gambling has long been a hot button topic in the US, overlapping into other issues, such as religion and states’ rights. It’ll be interesting to watch what each state decides, and for those that legalize gambling for profit, it will be interesting to gauge the economic impact.
Rob Shapiro | Contributing Writer