I recommend reading the article if you have a moment, but the crux of it is something that I had suspected for years: "[S]tate-sponsored casino gambling ... parallels the separate and unequal life patterns in education, marriage, work, and play that increasingly divide America into haves and have-nots. Those in the upper ranks of the income distribution rarely, if ever, make it a weekly habit to gamble at the local casino. Those in the lower ranks of the income distribution often do. Those in the upper ranks rarely, if ever, contribute a large share of their income to the state's take of casino revenues. Those in the lower ranks do."
Look, the reality is that I'm all for allowing people to do as they choose. If you don't want to wear a helmet when you ride a motorcycle - and you're someone who's mature and responsible enough to make that decision - more power to you... You're obviously smarter than the data and research that otherwise suggests that wearing a helmet gives you a greater chance of surviving a serious crash. Don't want to wear a seatbelt? Same answer as above (so long as you're an adult and deemed responsible to make decisions for yourself; kids are a different matter).
However, I think that purposely allowing casinos to open in areas easily accessible to lower income earners is a terrible choice. I'll own up to the fact that I voted for Maryland's Question 7 - "Do you favor the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education to authorize video lottery operation licensees to operate "table games" as defined by law; to increase from 15,000 to 16,500 the maximum number of video lottery terminals that may be operated in the State; and to increase from 5 to 6 the maximum number of video lottery operation licenses that may be awarded in the State and allow a video lottery facility to operate in Prince George's County?"
The reality is that I really wish that we as residents could have voted for the individual approval though. I never would have voted for a Baltimore casino if I had the option. According to the Baltimore Sun and the U.S. Census Bureau, "One quarter of Baltimore residents (and 37% of Baltimore children) live in poverty." Baltimore's poverty far supersedes the 15% nationwide poverty rate.
So let me get this straight:
- Casinos most deeply affect the poor and downtrodden
- The percentage cash expenditure of gambling vs. income by people in poverty is far higher than those in the upper income distribution
- We're [Maryland and its residents] putting a casino in an area easily accessible to a poverty stricken city
Sounds rife with stupidity on the state's part... Maybe I do have some liberal blood left in me after all...
P.S. I wanted to share this tangentially-related statistic, also cited in the CNN article: ""a Canadian study that finds that the 75% of casino customers who play only occasionally provide only 4% of casino revenues. It's the problem gambler who keeps the casino in business." A poor and/or problem gambler is a recipe for communal strife in my book.
P.P.S. And please don't comment about how ironic it is that I'm writing this but yet I'm a poker player doing the same thing on a man-to-man basis. I think poker sees very few walking poor sitting in at the tables. Perhaps it is due to my limited, myopic view of the world, but I see far more problem gamblers who at least give the appearance they can afford it than I see poverty stricken individuals.