| | Legalizing Online Sports Betting is the Answer
Obscenity, I imagine, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. No sight, for example, is more grotesque to me than when I enter a casino and see rows of vacant-eyed citizens with buckets of coins, numbly pushing buttons and pulling levers as the cacophonous sound of slot machines preys upon all our ears.
But when I'm in Las Vegas and I stroll into the next room, the sports book, I find only warm, manly camaraderie there. Oh, to be sure, there is way too much drinking, way too much smoking, way too much profanity -- but how charming it seems to me. All a matter of taste, you understand.
But this, too: Betting on sports, you at least have a chance to win. Oh, you probably won't, but it does require a certain intelligence to play. Likewise poker, which offers such drama that it has actually become a popular spectator sport. But, of course, slot machines are set, by statute, so that the house must earn the lion's share.
As the legendary old gambler who was known as Daddy Warbucks once said, "My daddy, he always told me, 'Anything that stands ... back up against the wall and challenges the world, well, son, you just leave it be.'"
Lotteries, too, are hopeless come-ons. Isn't it interesting that the vast preponderance of legal gambling in this country is the most exploitative -- primed for the poor, the aged and the simple-minded?
Now, in another fit of puritanical hypocrisy, our government has begun to crack down on online gambling, which is conducted with sports books overseas. Please. The idea that we can ever effectively put enough fingers in the dikes of cyberspace when we can't even patrol our own physical borders is ludicrous, and a waste of time and money.Besides, according to the World Trade Organization, it may well be illegal for our government to try to stop Americans from gambling online offshore.
Already it's estimated that eight million Americans are betting something like $6 billion online annually -- and that's just an ante for the years to come. It's foolish enough that we don't permit betting on games outside of Nevada -- and instead let the bookies clean up. Now, if we don't permit and regulate online betting by law, then creeps from around the world will take our money, will let our children bet, will cheat and steal.
People want to bet on games. For football, it's the very lifeblood of its popularity. We ought to follow the example of England -- legalize online sports betting, tax it and make lots of money on it so that we can spend the profits on things that our people need.
Will this mean that more Americans will become addicted to gambling? Sadly, yes. But so too do we tax tobacco and people get cancer from smoking, and we tax demon rum and people become alcoholics. It's not exactly that we care all that much for the well-being of our vulnerable citizenry. Tens of millions of Americans have no health insurance, and the minimum wage is not nearly enough to live on.
Maybe it's a sin to gamble. OK, but it's an even greater sin not to accept the fact that we are sinners. The government ought to book that bet.