Gambling on an issue
Aug 26, 2009 | 1841 views |  1 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabamians gamble.

We bet on dogs chasing a mechanical rabbit. We bet on bingo — electronic and otherwise. We play the lottery; some of the most profitable lotto outlets in neighboring states are the ones hard against the Alabama line. We go to the boats in Biloxi — though most are on dry land — and keep the Native American tribes in business where they operate.

Now it is football season, and people on sports radio talk shows are advertising "inside" information that surely is not being sold to those who want it only for enjoyment's sake.

So one would think that politicians looking to capture popular imagination could find nothing better than offering Alabamians an opportunity to do more of what they already do — gamble.

Of course, that would be the wrong assumption.

That's why there's something odd about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ron Sparks' promise that he would support a constitutional amendment to allow casino gambling in Alabama. Sparks' promise has all the trappings of a pure political attempt to get enough support to overcome his opponent, U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, who leads in Democratic polls.

There is obvious logic to Sparks' position, since it could be a way to bring jobs to parts of the state that badly need them. It also is a way for Mobile to keep money at home rather than sending it across the line to Mississippi. Nevertheless, the fact is that anti-gambling forces in the state are still capable of doing to his plan what they did to the more thought-out lottery proposal they defeated in 1999.

Besides, anti-gambling efforts have logic on their side as well, for the social consequences of gambling often offset any economic gain.

Instead, Sparks (and Davis and Republican contenders) should push for better regulation of the gambling already in Alabama and tax gaming where gaming exists. The state should also look toward working with Indian gambling operations in the state and getting a share of their earnings — something Gov. Bob Riley has refused to do since that would, in effect, endorse gambling and lead to its spread.

This brings us back to the original point.

Alabamians gamble. Since they do, the state needs to regulate it and tax it.

Once that occurs, we can discuss what comes next.
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