The RPs Debate Gambling: Artur Davis Rebuts

Artur Davis: Rebuttal #1

[The RP’s Provocation]

I think Jonathan makes the progressive case for gambling probably as well as I’ve seen it made–its a substantial upgrade from the libertarian boilerplate that gambling is a vice no loftier, no more shameful, than say, cigarette smoking, and that it’s not government’s job to regulate simple vice; its better than the “low wage casino jobs beat no jobs” spiel that drives progressives to embrace gambling in high unemployment communities.  The fact is that government has been in the business of outlawing sin for a long time, particularly those of the addictive variety. Meanwhile, the jobs case for casinos falters on the ground that heavy gambling counties, especially in the Deep South, have unemployment rates equal to or worse than the gambling free zones next door to them; if anything, the casinos seem to chase a class of low end retail jobs from certain neighborhoods.

Jonathan relies, instead, on a hard-core fact of politics: if raising taxes is untenable in most state capitals, and if massive service cuts are too draconian, gaming revenue is often the last option standing. If it sounds defeatist, its still proved powerful, and explains why conservatives in the Alabamas and Mississippis are torn over gambling, and rarely support banning it altogether, and why progressives are relatively untroubled by its regressive tendencies and the case that gaming dollars are a kind of extra sales tax on the poor.

So, without being an absolutist on the subject, I have two lingering doubts. One is that the gaming industry is a grossly inefficient market that uses its political clout to remain that way. In Alabama, rather than gravitate toward tourist destinations like the Gulf Coast, or the populous cities that could supply a steady labor base, it has concentrated in low end communities off the beaten path that have a much weaker core of employable adults. Even some of the communities that desperately want casinos struggle to get them or keep them. Ordinary rules of supply and demand don’t exist, and that means, invariably, that influence is be exercised to block some operators and to protect others. Its a lucrative prescription for corruption, and not surprisingly, the industry’s major benefactors found their way into a major, bipartisan public corruption prosecution last year.

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The RPs Debate Gambling: Artur Davis Rebuts

The RPs Debate Gambling: The RP Provokes

Over the past three weeks, we’ve launched a new tradition at The Recovering Politician: a great virtual debate on the issues of the day among our recovering politicians; with provocations, rebuttals, responses, and defenses.  Our first discussion focused on presidential leadership; our second on legalizing marijuana; and our third, Tim Tebow.

This week, the RP stirs up the mix with another controversial subject: the morality of gambling  The RP starts off with his provocative article from The Huffington Post.  Tune in every half hour to read what other RPs have to say.  

SPOILER ALERT: There will be fireworks.

The RP‘s Provocation:

It was one of those awkward, seemingly-endless moments that elicited pained winces from both secular liberals and those of us who believe that prayer is a sacred communication with God.

Rev. Hershael York stepped up to the Speaker’s lectern, before a televised joint session of the Kentucky General Assembly, purportedly to deliver the opening prayer.  Instead, he launched into a blistering political diatribe, attacking Gov. Steve Beshear’s signature proposal to generate tax revenue by expanding gaming in the Commonwealth:

May [the Legislature] never resort to leveraging vice and avarice to pay our bills… May they not lead this state to share profits from an industry that preys on greed or desperation. Help us to foster salaries, not slot machines, to build cars and enable jobs, not license casinos and seduce the simple into losing what they have.

While York’s oration was as inappropriate as it was unsubtle, it certainly reflected a widely-shared worldview within the conservative Christian community: Gambling is immoral, and its creeping sprawl through Middle America should be contained.

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The RPs Debate Gambling: The RP Provokes

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