Governments blind cash addicts

Posted on November 14, 2007
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             New Brunswick is pretending to revise its gambling policies to protect addicts. It will reduce the number of one-arm bandits. Governments, of course, don’t like to call them one-arm bandits or slot machines.

            Everyone knows those things are what the sleazy underworld casino operators use to bleed their prey. Most of us think casinos are about black jack and roulette. I recently learned that 90% of casino revenue comes from the slots.

            But no, no, governments don’t operate slots. They operate video lottery terminals. Sounds like entertainment, doesn’t it?

            What is actually happening is that government is engaged in its permanent occupation of trying to pluck the goose to produce, as someone said, the maximum amount of feathers with the minimum amount of squawking.

            Racinos, a way to pretend governments support horse racing, are one avenue. Horse racing is dying as fewer people know one end of a horse from the other. By appearing to come to the aid of racing, lottery corporations open the door to the casino idea. The next step will be to show that the horse part is a big drain and phase it out.

            It’s all directed to generate the maximum of revenue for government whether there is any net profit in it or not. Watching the addicts pour money into the slots and hearing the sad lies they tell themselves is sickening.

            Government says it wants its slot clients to gamble responsibly. At the same time, its machines have the very flashing lights and bells deliberately designed by the international gambling industry to addict players.

            If they really wanted people to limit their playing, they could easily do it by silencing and darkening the machines. They could also shut down the machines for an hour every four to give addicts a chance to get a grip.

            Nope, there is no evidence whatsoever governments really want to loosen the machines’ grip on addicts.

            The other clear sign provincial governments are greedily addicted to gambling revenue is that they have systematically drained what used to be community fund raising tools.

            Before government lotteries, every service club raised money with raffles. Community halls, Catholic churches and service clubs ran bingos.

            Lottery tickets and the slots have drained most of that money out of the communities and into provincial coffers.

            There are few raffles and bingos are much less profitable than they were.

            The process isn’t even subject to freedom of information access. Each Atlantic finance minister will always say he has no problem opening up Atlantic Lottery but his province is just one of four owners. How convenient.

            I believe gambling has to be legal. It will exist so it is only a question of whether it will be publicly owned and regulated or underground.

            It would be nice if public ownership were less sleazy than underworld ownership.

            As I’ve pointed out, the games could easily be made less addictive.

            The provinces could make themselves disinterested regulators by turning over ownership of the Atlantic Lottery Corporation to the municipalities.

            The provinces could still receive a cut for health care and social services to addicts.

            Slots should probably be in separate, dedicated locations to avoid messing up the normal development of business as they have. First they encouraged a flood of new convenience stores by ruling slots had to be in places that sold groceries. Then they put gangs of the convenience stores out of business by moving the slots to bars.

            That led to the paradox of service stations with bars and slots. There should be signs at the exit doors from the bar-slot rooms that say “Don’t Drive!” and signs at the entrances that say “Don’t Drink!”

            Mind you gambling addicts don’t drink much anyway so we have all these bars scrambling to stay in business.

            Still, isn’t there something paradoxical about a credit card statement that has a charge for gasoline next to a charge for booze from the same place at the same time?

            Maybe they could put the slots in the liquor stores and agencies.

            They could also auction off the liquor agency licenses to end the obvious and sleazy patronage gifts of agencies to friends of the party in power. The liquor corporation is supposed to belong to us, not the political party.

            Why do you suppose we never see any of this kind of discussion among politicians?

            Could it be that they are blinded by their addiction to our money?

            Is there a 12-step program for that?



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