Monday, March 10, 2008

Gambling in MA

I've been on the fence about the various proposals to bring three new casino's to MA. On the one hand, I think its pretty clear that "the people" to the extent they exist, even in a progressive state like MA, aren't willing to bear the burden of the social services they actually want. They don't want to pay the taxes required for healthy schools, police, fire, roads, etc... So what is a sensible politician to do but to look around for a ready source of tax revenue and fees that won't come up for a revote all the time? Casinos, nominally, fit this bill to a t. Get them in and tax them any way you want, "da people" aren't going to complain. Also, I'm a libertarian on "victimless crimes" like consensual prostitution, drug use, and other forms of taxable pleasure like gambling. My own perspective is that a certain number of people can't handle pleasure at all without becoming addicted, but that the costs to society of inderdicting that small number of people is much greater than the sad loss of those people is. For every tommy and timmy saved from drugs/alcohol/other sin of choice addiction and debasement there's some other person or twelve who are swept up in draconian rockefeller era drug laws and whose lives are ruined not by the drugs but by the state. We hear pathetic stories by middle class families (like this one on Salon) about promising and brilliant careers blasted by drugs, but nothing about the everyday lives of the minority mules and hookers whose lives are blasted by prison terms for carrying the drugs that somebody important's baby willfully takes.

On the other hand I hold no brief for gambling as a social good or an economic benefit. And articles like this just make me sick. If we are to allow and encourage gambling by making it legal lets do it sensibly--no gambling on credit (at all)--cash only. No legal right to collect gambling debts at all--that's right, no using the state courts to garnish wages or recoup gambling debts. No legal right to sign away assets (cars or homes) or otherwise entangling the assets of families in the individual's debts. That will be the absolute end of gambling. Because the truth is if the casino's can't force people to pay up their ridiculous debts, there's no profit. No profit, no gambling as a business. People don't need to gamble money to get the thrill they are looking for. We could just hook them up to some kind of electric jolt. And stop putting money into the hands of organized crime or worse, turning the state and the state's police and prisons into a branch of organized crime debt collection.