Gambling and Lotteries
On the subject of gambling, many people and politicians in Alabama are all over the spectrum on how much we should allow in this state. On one side are the ones who believe that it should be completely legalized with a free market. On the opposite, we have the extremists who want to abolish every last bit of it, lest the people overindulge in it and plummet into Hell. Do we have a practical solution to this argument?
For starters, there is no way we can abolish it. The federal government has granted the Poarch Creek Indians absolute autonomy over their lands to have and operate casinos that would, by Alabama’s current laws, be completely illegal in other places. So if the Indians can be allowed to operate casinos, why can’t the rest of Alabama’s people? Why should they be granted a monopoly? Why can’t they have some competition in a free market?
Back in the 1980’s Milton McGregor built Victoryland, a posh Bingo Hall and dog racing track near Shorter in economically depressed Macon County. When it opened, the local people rejoiced and prospered with the jobs and tax revenue that it provided. But later, state law enforcement officers shut it down and seized the machines they claimed were not legal. The local people lost their jobs and tax revenue. Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford became very upset over losing one of the county’s biggest industries. He and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange are still waging war over that issue.
The argument that gambling causes crime rates to rise does not wash. There was no increase in crime in Macon County. Other places that have casinos—Biloxi, Atlantic City, and Las Vegas are not rife with crime. The claim that huge numbers of people will gamble away everything they have and become destitute is also ridiculous. And finally, if people can’t find their gambling pleasure here in Alabama, they can easily take their money to Biloxi and other places, just like they are already doing right now.
Why should we use the force of law to stop people from gambling? It is their personal choice. Let them use it. America is supposed to be a free country. The law is supposed to protect people, not rule them. And don’t our law enforcement people have better things to do?
The same rule applies to lotteries. Why can’t Alabama have one? The politicians are constantly whining for more money. Why should Alabama citizens have to run to Georgia and other places and pay tribute to them?
The argument favoring a lottery is very simple. A lottery is voluntary. A lottery can finance a substantial portion of our state and local governments without having to steal money from the people. Taxes are essentially theft. They are seized by force and often spent on things we are better off without.
If I was a state representative or senator, I would strongly work to start a lottery in Alabama. However, there would be one condition: I would not vote for it just to give the state some free money. Considering Alabama’s bloated budgets and reckless spending, I would insist that one or more taxes be repealed or reduced by at least an equal amount. The sales tax, especially the tax on food, would be a good candidate. Perhaps several taxes could be repealed. The last thing I would want is a windfall that would make our state and local governments grow bigger and more abusive. Whenever revenue, taxes, expenditures and budgets are considered, we must always remember to do everything we can to make all levels of government smaller, less intrusive, and less expensive.
The goal of a lottery is not to raise more revenue. It is to replace revenue that is stolen with revenue that is provided voluntarily.
And Luther Strange needs to get off of his “stamp out gambling” high horse and devote his time and effort to protect the people’s individual liberty and guard against waste and corruption in our budgets and expenditures.