The popular network news broadcaster Linda Ellerbee signs off her newscasts with four words that can insult, enlighten, bring a laugh or infuriate. Her closing, “And so it goes…” came to mind when I learned that gambling had again won the hearts, votes and money of too many Georgians — including Gov. Nathan Deal, who had run on a campaign saying he did not support expanding gambling.
Amazing the changes 1,000 days can bring.
In House Bill 487, which gives a green light to video gambling on a statewide database, Gov. Deal discovers a gambling measure he does favor and will sign. He explains his flip-flop with the expected defense: Too much bad information was put out about that bill.
Governor, the Georgia Christian Coalition just told the truth; falsehoods were not needed to oppose this bill.
The primary gift to gamblers in the new video gambling bill is that it makes slot machine-appearing games legal. They can pay off in prizes from the store or lottery tickets — but no cash. To make certain this provision for cashless gambling is strictly observed, the Georgia Lottery Commission has been given responsibility for enforcement, which means its army of law folk must arrest lawbreakers who are doing their best to make more revenue for the commission. Fox, meet hen house?
Remember a few years ago when Georgians first said yes to a simple lottery ticket sale? Just a roll of tickets, one dollar each. Not even sales tax could be charged. Now, entire sections of the stores have been given over to lottery offerings. “Scratch off” has been added to our lexicon.
So what is really wrong with more gambling? No discussion is needed about the moral issue or wasted lives excessive gambling creates. What’s wrong with neighborhood gamblers sitting on six stools in your local store sending their money to Atlanta where one day maybe a dime of each dollar goes to education?
Not one cent of that dollar is spent as tax or local purchase. It takes sales tax from 20 people to replace every dollar those cash-devouring machines grab from your local economy. Those millions of dollars to the lottery are from someone’s local pocket and unpaid tax.
However, not all is gloom. Those in the business of gambling have decided to not bet on horse or dog racing coming to Georgia. The space will be more profitable for “Family Fun Centers” featuring kiddie fun near video poker and other games of first skill, then chance.
Gamblers are the most optimistic people. They must be, knowing the odds are against them in any gambling venture. So they prepare for tomorrow’s customers by making sure young folks feel at home around gambling, and seeing Mom and Dad dropping money in machines. Much more visual than purchasing pieces of cardboard.
At least in casinos, those under 18 are not admitted. Not so at your local gambling store. The future is watching. The machines are flashing.
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Jerry Luquire is president of the Georgia Christian Coalition, based in Columbus.