A gambling-crazy future: What are the odds?
GENE MILLER / PUBLISHED: JULY 18, 2016
Regarding “House approves bill that expands gambling venues,” Standard-Speaker, June 29, consider this tongue-in-cheek, lame attempt at political satire:
“Hey, Brad! What’s happening?” Dave shouted as he barged unceremoniously into his neighbor’s kitchen.
Brad barely looked up. “Nothing much,” he muttered. “But I told Andy I’d help him with his math homework, and I’m stumped. This stuff is pretty hard.”
“What’s it about?” Dave asked.
“Oooh,” said Dave sympathetically. “That sounds awfully advanced for ninth grade. I remember taking probability at Penn State 30 years ago and having lots of trouble with it. Is there a specific focus?”
“The lottery,” Brad sighed. “They want the kids to figure out the odds of winning the Pick 3 and the 39 other games. Then since the county and most of the boroughs and townships have their own lotteries, the students have to apply their broader conclusions to the local versions. It’s really complicated. But they need to be aware of current trends, I guess.”
“Yeah, my daughter’s doing an 11th-grade term paper on casino psychology. She hopes to find out why so many people are attracted to them.”
“Well, at least school’s not all heavy academics,” Brad said. “Since they introduced video poker as a phys-ed elective, the kids have something to look forward to three times a week.”
“And there’s off-track betting as an afterschool option,” Dave noted.
“They’re doing some creative things,” Brad agreed, “now that state funding isn’t an issue anymore. Do you remember — it’s been almost 12 years — when Gov. Wolf and the Legislature were locked in that budget stalemate. And it was mainly over education spending and who’d pay for it. That seems like ancient history. It could never happen nowadays.”
“It’s amazing, when you think about it,” Dave mused. “Who’d have thought then that gambling revenue would expand so fast that it more than covers all statewide expenditures. When they abolished the income tax and all local property, school, count, and municipal taxes two years ago, it was the most popular thing that ever happened in Pennsylvania. And next year the sales tax bites the dust too.”
“The whole situation is a politician’s dream,” Brad reflected. “All those no-tax pledges are passé now. They can all run for re-election and they won’t even need the gerrymandering.”
“There is a downside to all this,” Dave said, growing suddenly serious. “Since we induced all Jersey’s casinos and online gambling sites to move here, that state’s gone belly-up. I’ll bet they’re gonna need a huge federal bailout.”
“That’s their problem,” Brad said. “But there’s also the matter of those 8½ million folks who need treatment for their gambling addiction. And there seems to be no money in the budget for it. The churches especially are up in arms about that.”
“Yes,” said Dave, “but did you hear about that church that’s installed slot machines in their vestibule? Someone told me it’s an alternative to offering envelopes. Where d’ya think it’ll all end.”
If our legislators continue to favor the “easy” or “painless” expansion of gambling over the meaningful — though unpopular — reform of the state’s revenue (i.e., tax) system, could it one day approach reality? Stay tuned.