The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a federal law that prohibits sports gambling made all kinds of legal sense if you consider just the interests of fairness among states and freedom for individuals.
But it was one more example of why doing the proper thing under the law sometimes can have disastrous moral and social welfare ramifications. Gambling inevitably has attached to it the corrosive and erosive barnacles of moral turpitude. It wastes time, money and other resources so people, some of whom are addicts waiting to trigger into addiction, can chase an ephemeral dream that many of them can't afford to chase.
My inner libertarian says they should be free to do that. You cannot, after all, legislate good sense and wisdom. And it's not the job of the government to teach people that time is a divine gift that should not be spat away by donating money to outfits that give gamblers very little chance of winning in the end.
So let the court's decision stand. But before the 49 states that don't yet have sports gambling jump into this sordid game with countless unforeseen and negative consequences, let's spend some time examining possible results and the public costs associated with those results.
I want you to know that I don't come at this matter as a gambling virgin, though I'm not terribly far from such purity on the issue. Decades ago, I several times went to the Batavia Downs race track in upstate New York with my then-in-laws and, while there, occasionally employed my highly conservative and ridiculous gambling technique of betting $2 that the horse with the best odds to win would at least come in third. Mostly that technique gave me back my $2 along with up to another 20 or even 60 cents.
In addition, when Missouri first began selling lottery tickets (in the 1980s, as I recall), I bought one for each of my two young daughters to show them what a waste of money gambling is. I was lucky that neither of their tickets was a winner, for it would have spoiled the lesson some. But I was confident enough to risk it. And I was right.
All of that said, I think gambling is a wasteful choice in a pile of wasteful choices created to keep us entertained to death. Its costs in addictions and in poverty-producing behavior, not to mention its destruction of time that could be spent in much better ways, is just not worth it to me.
To encourage you to think through the possible ramifications of sports gambling, I'm going to suggest that you read this piece about the ethics of gambling and this piece that raises the question of whether gambling is immoral. And finally I point you to this page, which describes why the United Methodist Church believes gambling "is a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic, and spiritual life, [and] destructive of good government."
But dollars to donuts, none of this will stop an explosion of sports gambling. Will you take that bet?
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IS RELIGION IN THE U.S. BOOMING?
I, too, was a little surprised the other day when Vice President Mike Pence said this in a speech: "Religion in America isn’t receding. It’s just the opposite. Faith is gaining new life across America every day." It seemed like a big stretch. But Politifact has done this careful analysis of Pence's contention and has concluded that what Pence said was "Half True." That doesn't seem like a compliment, but it's what we wish we got from President Trump.