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Gambling expansion and racial segregation

By Weston Hicks | 4 days ago

The game is simple. The gambling industry tries to get one step closer to having slot machines every session, by hook or by crook. They’ll use rule-making authority, hide it in legislation, or do whatever they can think will move the ball a little bit.

It is the job of Texas patriots to stay vigilant in blocking this, and to go on offense against this proven menace.

On Wednesday, the Texas Lottery Commission will consider the industry’s latest scheme, which is the allowing of “video confirmation” to show if pull-tab bingo tickets are winners. By design this stuff is so technical-sounding that it puts even motivated politicos to sleep trying to learn about it. The essence of it can be made simpler.

It would be like the restaurant industry in Mississippi trying to get around the integration of restaurant counters in the Civil Rights Act by claiming that some people have heart conditions, are afraid of people with certain skin colors, and therefore must be allowed a “disability-safe lunch counter”. This would not be “segregation” per se. The fact that lunch counters end up all one color again would just be a coincidence, you see. Maybe these crusaders for the disabled in Mississippi could actually use the Americans with Disabilities Act to turn back the Civil Rights Act.

Thankfully, nobody is doing this civil right end-around, but the spirit of this illustration is a lot like what is happening in the gambling industry, where slot machines are illegal and politically dead so the industry keeps trying to mangle bingo and other legal things into slot machines.

This is why we are not supposed to call them “slot machines” anymore. The gambling industry prefers the name “VAT,” which stands for “video assist terminal”. It is such a benign-sounding name, but they are slot machine for anyone not playing political games.

And, as is clear to those with the guts to pay attention, gambling is social cancer. This is proved by credible studies not paid for by the gambling industry. Gambling is a social and economic disaster, and there is never any such thing as a gambling free market.

It is, however, a recognized “growth” sector for the crony GOP, who are always on the lookout for industries with two characteristics: industries keen to purchase political corruption and industries the political hacks can figure out a way to sell using conservative sounding rhetoric.

Thus, the coupling of gambling and free market rhetoric in the modern GOP, a move designed to activate their trusty Useful Idiot Brigade. The UIB is a crack squad, half of whom sit behind keyboards wearing tinfoil hats to make sure the government doesn’t read their minds. They like to vote repeatedly in online polls. The other half are in politics, either in the crony GOP or hoping to make it in.

The reason gambling and free markets will never belong in the same sentence is very simple. In our system anyone with money can multiply their political voice via campaign donations and lobbyists. As a result, some successful but unscrupulous companies choose to pay to skew laws in order to ward off competition. The recipe for this is simple: campaign donations plus lobbyists who write corrupt bills, figure out ways to describe them as virtuous, and wine and dine legislators until they support them.

Despite what cynics may think, not all successful companies that engage in this cronifying of the economy, this chaining of markets. In fact, most do not; most carry forward the good faith of our founding.

(As an aside for the armchair political theorists out here, this overall political dynamic is reason #1,063 that virtue creates the conditions for liberty, not vice-versa.)

But, the most corrupt companies do this stuff, and have for a long time. And gambling is always at the front of this remedial, tyranny-courting class. From top to bottom gambling is all about the promise of easy gains, softly whispered encouragement to gamble just a little more, and the reality of the family-crushing recklessness that keeps the industry in expensive suits.

In Texas the gambling factions are in a constant war to control the market, to own the gambling oligopoly. There is no illusion among the industry or the well-informed that the gambling market will ever be ‘free’. It is simply too lucrative and dirty for the people involved to not try to lock it up for themselves via the old campaign money/lobbyist one-two punch.

In addition, studies show gambling increases law enforcement costs, social service costs, and depresses general productivity in areas it occupies. It does this to the tune of three dollars for every dollar of “revenue” it allegedly creates.

Worse still, the gambling propaganda constantly talks about how much money is spent at casinos, suggesting tax revenues to be spent on nice things like schools, but it never talks about the ‘prize pool’ which renders money spent at gambling establishments relatively meaningless as tax revenue.

In normal industries, like the clothing business, companies are taxed a percentage of their revenue. In gambling establishments a “prize pool” must be maintained as a kind of insurance against several people hitting the jackpot on the slots in the same night. It makes a certain amount of sense given the nature of the industry, but what it means for the state is that a much tinier fraction of money spent on gambling is classified as revenue as compared to normal industries. Literally, mere pennies on the dollar from casinos turn into tax revenue as compared to industries without prize pools.

Simply put, gambling is a dog for any state, and will turn a state into an embarrassing junk bin if allowed to flourish.

Texas patriots need to stay aware of schemes to bring slot machines in through the back door, such as the Texas Lottery Commission rule to allow video confirmation for pull-tab bingo, under review this Wednesday at the Texas Lottery Commission.

Even for holdouts who support gambling, Obama-style rule making is an affront to rule of law. This kind of thing should be voted on by the legislature in the light of day.