Slot Machines

Listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on KTBB AM 600, Friday, March 22, 2013.

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Your state senators and representatives are currently in Austin cooking something up that I think we should carefully think about. There is a proposed amendment to the Texas constitution floating around that, if approved by voters, would not only permit casino gambling in Texas, would serve to make the State of Texas the dealer.

That’s because the measure wouldn’t simply make it legal to set up a casino. I might could support that idea, particularly if it were a local option. But that’s not the proposal. Instead, the measure would, according to its language, create “immediate additional revenue” by “…creating the Texas Gaming Commission, and authorizing and regulating the operation of casino games and slot machines by a limited number of licensed operators and certain Indian tribes.”

In other words, put the State of Texas in the position of creating a casino gambling cartel and then profiting from people who shovel the rent money down a slot machine.

I’m not moralizing here. I’m not arguing against gambling per se. I’m enough of a libertarian to say that if you want to piss away your paycheck at the blackjack table, it’s your business. But I don’t think the state should be in the position of hoping that you do. What’s legal isn’t necessarily right. (And it should be noted that I defend gambling as a matter of your business only with the caveat that how you pay for food, shelter, clothing and transportation when the money is gone is also your business.)

As an argument in favor of casino gambling, proponents point to the economic and tax revenue impact of Texans leaving the state to visit casinos in Louisiana and Oklahoma. Better to keep that revenue in the state they say.

But by that argument, you could make the case for the state getting into the prostitution business. States, in my opinion, waste time and money trying, with little success, to stamp prostitution out. The argument could be made that since prostitution is going to happen anyway, the state should form a State Prostitution Commission that would license, regulate and tax the sex-for-hire industry.

I believe that would be wrong for two reasons.

First, my inner libertarian again speaks up. If two parties agree to have sex, it’s none of the state’s business. Whether or not money changes hands is incidental. But that will never make prostitution honorable.

And thus my second argument. It is fundamentally wrong for the state to have a financial interest in you hiring a hooker. Prostitution is not like the responsible consumption of alcohol. Prostitution in any amount is depraved. It is the worst sort of misogyny. Its practitioners almost to a person lead lives riddled by physical and psychological injury. That they choose to do so is their business. But the state should have no truck with it.

Which leads to my argument against the current proposal for casino gambling. By the simple economic fundamentals of a casino, in order for the casino to make money, the player has to lose money. Just as the state shouldn’t hope that anyone would go hire a hooker, it shouldn’t hope that anyone lose money. Some people can afford to lose money. Most can’t.

As for the tax revenue justification: whatever tax revenue a government generates it spends. The country’s current fiscal situation absolutely screams in support of the idea that rather than look for new sources of revenue, government at every level should be looking for ways to need less of it. Feeding the beast only makes him bigger and stronger. Our only hope for economic survival is to starve him.

The state being de facto in the casino business is a bad idea. If the idea survives the legislative session, let’s hope it dies at the ballot box.