I’m Debating Gambling This Week

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Sorry for the dearth of posts today. I’m on a couple deadlines.

But at midnight tonight, you can read the opening salvos in my weeklong debate over at the Economist on whether we should legalize gambling. Readers determine the winner.

I (barely) resisted the temptation to start by asking my opponent if he wanted to place a wager on the outcome.

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24 Responses to “I’m Debating Gambling This Week”

  1. #1 |  JS | 

    Nice use of the word dearth!

  2. #2 |  Wade | 

    It should be an easy debate to win. Gambling is already legal in most states. The only question is whether individuals and corporations should be able to run some of the games. The authoritarians ceded the moral high ground when they passed state lotteries in most places.

  3. #3 |  Bob | 

    I like the use of the phrase “Pay Packet”. I don’t know what century it’s from, but it sounds cool.

    You totally owned that guy. By his argument, all convenience stores should be closed because the food there is priced much higher than at the supermarket. And every restaurant should be closed because it’s cheaper to prepare meals at home. Oh… and we should all take the bus.

    In fact, he didn’t even make an actual argument against gambling itself.

  4. #4 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Twain’s “outlaw steaks because babies don’t have teeth” statement always comes to mind.

    Congress, President, endless war, the Fed, IRS, police…what part isn’t gambling?

  5. #5 |  InMD | 

    Speaking of the Economist, they had a good leader the other week on the foolishness of trying to ban online gambling.


  6. #6 |  SJE | 

    From the opponent’s opening remarks
    “Gambling operators attempt to hide under the cloak of “personal freedom” as if the issue was about social forms of gambling like playing cards at a neighbour’s house on a Friday night. The issue is really about predatory gambling and broken government.”

    Well, yes it IS a matter of personal freedom. Gambling opponents ‘attempt to hide under the cloak’ of protecting individuals from the ‘predatory’ behavior of others that only occurs because of ‘broken goverment.’ So, when government is not ‘broken,’ exactly what will it be protecting us against? A few of the things that Western governments have ‘protected’ us from since 1900, to often disastrous results.

    Alcohol (US prohibition).
    Marijuana (world wide)
    ‘Drugs’ (thats working out so well, isn’t it)
    Sex outside marriage
    Gambling (most western nations)
    access to drugs that can save your life (US Supreme Court ruling that FDA can deny you acess to experimental drugs)
    credit (see usury laws)
    people saying mean or critical things (Canada, much of western europe)
    religion that was not approved (European attempts to ban various religious groups)
    foreigners and people of color
    (repeated legislation. e.g. White Australia policy)
    Those of bad genes (early-mid 20th Cent eugenics movement)
    Right to negotiate my income and benefits (e.g. FDR’s labor laws)

    This doesnt even include the almost theocratic hold that the Catholic Church held over much of Southern Europe, Central and South America.

    And, much as I hate to violate Godwin’s law, lets not forget the Nazis, whose strong centralized government was certainly not “broken” and who thereby managed to ‘protect’ Germany from all sorts of imagined threats.

  7. #7 |  Megs | 

    I don’t have a horse in that race, as I don’t like gambling (har har), but all I know is I hate hate hate illegal gambling except through a quasi-government body. That makes me sick. It’s either legal or its not.

  8. #8 |  Bob | 

    Damn it! I should have taken bets on how soon Godwin’s law would be applied.

    Coulda made some quick Quatloos.

  9. #9 |  Extended Warren T | 

    —–Nice use of the word dearth!—–

    I try not to use it at all, in fact I will go to great lengths to keep it out of my vocabulary.

    You could say I’m a Dearth Evader.

  10. #10 |  The_Chef | 

    Radley is currently landsliding his opposition: 80-20


    Keep up the voting!

  11. #11 |  emerson | 

    Radley’s deard to me.

  12. #12 |  BSK | 

    I know this may not be a popular opinion, but in general, I do think restrictions should be put on certain predatory businesses, specifically those that engage in fraud or other explicit deception in their practices.

    And while there are certain “predatory” aspects of gambling, the fact is, everyone knows the stakes. Or, everyone SHOULD know the stakes and only through willful ignorance does one not. As long as there aren’t deliberately deceptive tactics, I have no issue with gambling. The only places I’ve seen such tactics employed is in illegal gambling, because the operators have the players in an absurd power play. Walk into any casino and you can ask for the odds and pay out on any bet and know exactly where you stand. The house edge is published fact. And any casino that cheats or otherwise acts dishonestly is generally chased out by those more on the level.

  13. #13 |  JS | 

    Extended Warren T
    “You could say I’m a Dearth Evader.”

    Haha, yea I could. But I won’t.

  14. #14 |  bbartlog | 

    @BSK: ‘And any casino that cheats or otherwise acts dishonestly is generally chased out by those more on the level.’

    Actually they get hosed by Gaming Commission, at least when it comes to the USA. Given the number of ways that casinos could cheat people this seems like one of the less objectionable examples of government regulation – especially since I doubt that other casinos would have any way of ‘chasing out’ offenders except via implementation of just such a government enforcement agency.

  15. #15 |  Marty | 

    any time I see the name ‘Les’ I think of ‘Les Nessman’ from wkrp, which makes me think of the episode where Les threw a bunch of turkeys out of a plane: ‘as god as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!’

    anti-gambling Les thinks govt regulations can fly…

    good job, Radley!

  16. #16 |  MikeZ | 

    I liked this quote by your opponent:

    ” It explains why casinos like Harrah’s, America’s largest gambling operator, found that 90% of its gambling profits come from the financial losses of 10% of its visitors, ”

    It kinda reminds me of say taxes. Somewhat of a meaningless quote unless you also correlate this to the income of the patrons.

    Personally I don’t really doubt he’s right about current casino’s being rather slimy, but didn’t we make them this way? Right now we are in effect supporting them by giving them a monopoly. If vice is going to bust local poker games, well that forces us to goto the big casino to gamble.

  17. #17 |  SJE | 

    re Mike Z: Yeah, and we should have protections against predatory taxes, too.

  18. #18 |  BSK | 


    Good point. Casinos are rightfully regulated, though probably need it less in the big picture than other industries. Even casinos that follow the rules but simply give different odds feel it. I’m blanking on the name, but there is a divey casino in Vegas that offers slightly lower odds on BlackJack and suffers for it. They also allow dumb kids (myself included) to play drinking games, so they make up for it there, but you don’t see any big gamers there. The market in legal casinos generally regulates itself. Screw your customers and you go out of business. Now, if a customer screws himself… well, that’s life?

  19. #19 |  BSK | 


    I think it would be very interesting if you pushed up on the forms of legalized gambling we have, particularly in the form of government-run lotteries. They have been guilty of the most egregious forms of predatory tactics out there (heavy advertising in low-income areas; big pushes around the 15th/30th of the month to coordinate with pay days; having certain tickets win you… more tickets; inflated payout numbers; using liquor stores as their primary outlet; overstating the benefits, namely how much money goes toward whatever cause they claim it does). Perhaps he’s opposed to that, as well, at which point I’d at least applaud him for being ideologically consistent.

  20. #20 |  Rhayader | 

    Haha, this is classic:

    More than one out of five citizens now believe the best way to secure their financial future is to play the lottery.

    Absolute bullshit — I know a lot of people who like to waste money on the lottery, and I’ve never heard a single person claim it was the “best way to secure [his] financial future”. I’d love to see Bernal’s source for that crap.

  21. #21 |  SJE | 

    Even IF 1 in 5 believe that, are we now going to legislate against it? People believe all sorts of wacky things: that doesn’t mean we should make it illegal.

  22. #22 |  Bob | 

    #20: Rhayader:

    I’d love to see Bernal’s source for that crap.

    He almost certainly pulled that out of his ass. Are you sure you want to see that?

  23. #23 |  Kristen | 

    “Fraud” falls under the cloak of “stealing”, which we already have a law for.

  24. #24 |  Sean L. | 


    I don’t believe you have violated Godwin’s Law. From its Wikipedia article:

    “The law and its corollaries would not apply to discussions covering […] discussion of other totalitarian regimes […]”

    Since your reference was far from hyperbolic, and applied directly to the actions of totalitarian authorities, it does not violate the law.