Opening Arguments in My Gambling Debate

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Mine is here. My opponent’s is here.

May the best bald guy win!

MORE:  Interesting. Support from my side went from 85% to 46% in a little over three hours, during which no new arguments were posted. Wondering if a Baptist convention just let out.

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77 Responses to “Opening Arguments in My Gambling Debate”

  1. #1 |  Cato Fellow Defends Your Right to Gamble | Think Tank West | 

    […] was leading by a landslide this morning, but there has been a curious development. Reports Radley: Interesting. Support from my side went from 85% to 46% in a little over three […]

  2. #2 |  Mattocracy | 

    @ 50,

    Exactly. All entertainment is about raising dopamine levels. If you can stop watching Everyone Loves Raymond, you can walk away from the slot machine.

  3. #3 |  Bob | 

    #40 orogeny:

    “This house believes there should be no legal restrictions on gambling. ”

    How is it possible to vote any way but “NO” on a resolution worded this poorly? There has to be some kind of regulation of legal gambling…slots have to be inspected, dice and cards checked, etc. I’m in favor of legalizing gambling, but I couldn’t vote for the resolution.

    The debate is on restriction, not regulation.

    It’s like buying gasoline. No one is stopping a gas station from selling all available forms of gas, but it better be from a certified gas pump. The gas pump is regulated to prevent fraud, the station is not restricted in what fuels it can sell (As far as I know, anyway) For example, you can still get leaded fuel, but your local station isn’t going to sell it because so few people want it. (I agree that that’s a strained metaphor)

    As such, the resolution can be accepted and the mechanics of the gambling can still be subjected to regulations. It’s like saying “Make up any gambling games you like, gamble on anything you like, but each game or system must be overviewed by the Gaming Commission to ensure that it’s free from fraud or misrepresentation to ensure an honest, transparent wager”

    For example: Let’s say the world worked the way the resolution proposes and you want to run a card game playing “Stud Poker” at your house on Thursday nights. For the sake of argument, let’s assume “Stud Poker” is clearly defined in advance and the Gaming Commission even publishes a rule book.

    You then cannot be arrested for playing Stud Poker even if you are making giant profits so long as it’s an honest game and transparent as per the issued regulations.

    Games that are patently abusive or unfair, like Ponzi Schemes, would stay illegal. Likewise, games that are constructed in suck a way as to make the calculation of odds impossible would likewise not be approved.

    Now, it’s possible that the writers of the resolution had the idea that there should be no restrictions OR regulations. That would be a different story, as it would be nearly impossible to find an honest game. For example: In Blackjack, the 10 value cards favor the player. All you have to do to rig the game is remove some of them from the deck and not allow the player to inspect the deck.

  4. #4 |  Marty | 

    reading this post, I feel oddly elated… it makes me want more… or to put a quarter in a slot machine.

  5. #5 |  Trepanated | 

    @orogeny:”There has to be some kind of regulation of legal gambling…slots have to be inspected, dice and cards checked, etc.”

    It’s dismaying to hear that you apparently believe that checks for fairness can only be performed by a government entity. Go to any online poker site, and you will find them touting their certifications for the fairness of their RNGs by private organizations. Such organizations would exist for brick and mortar casinos too, if not for the fact that the government insists on monopolizing that service.

    Casinos that are interested in a sustainable business model, which is most of them, will care very much about their reputation for fairness. There is a demand for certification of this type. This does not mean it has to be done by the government. To give an example from another field, I personally put a lot more weight behind what J.D. Power or Consumer Reports have to say about car safety than what the Department of Transportation does. The former 2 have a possibility of going out of business if they are consistently wrong, while the latter does not.

  6. #6 |  SJE | 

    I’m addicted to reading and commenting on Radley’s blog. (Oooooh, dopamine rush). Should it be illegal?

  7. #7 |  xenia onatopp | 

    Radley won hands down, and not just because his opponent was apparently in a different debate.

    The thing that makes my brain hurt is the argument that legalized gambling makes gambling addicts of folks who might otherwise never place a bet. Hello? I mean, leaving aside the whole issue of repackaging voluntary behavior as involuntary pathology, on what planet are they living that people who want to gamble are stopped from doing so because it’s illegal? Newsflash! Pretty much anyone who is disposed to doing so is already gambling. For fuck’s sake, how can you make a valid argument when you are deliberately and disingenuously denying reality?

  8. #8 |  David | 

    I see a huge problem with the resolution: “there should be no legal restrictions on gambling” – it is too absolute, inviting no exception.

    I think – for instance – that restrictions against minors (under 18, I disagree with under 21 restrictions) gambling in casinos or purchasing lottery tickets should be in place (note I said restrictions – I’d probably be open to allowing gambling with parental supervision at e.g. 16+?). Restrictions against people who have committed gambling-related crimes may be appropriate as probaton or parole conditions (or bail conditions, for those accused). Zoning and parking issues might justify restrictions against someone turning his or her house into a 24/7 casino. And so on.

    Therefore, despite agreeing that gambling should generally be permissible, much more so than it is now, and generally agreeing with almost everything on hear or Reason about poker and raids and so forth, I cannot agree with the resolution because it is too absolute.

  9. #9 |  Rhayader | 

    @David #56: Yeah there’s been a bit of a back-and-forth on that — post 40 posed the question, and Bob had a thorough reply in #52.

  10. #10 |  J.S. | 

    Don’t get me started on state lotteries/video poker machines, the hypocrisy angers me to no end. Online gaming bad. Indian casinos/vegas/state lotto etc. good.

    The Oregon state gov makes a lot of cash from both of those venues (and often shoots themselves in the foot by not maximizing income). The lottery commercials are galling lately. They had some silly campaign for a new game called Cleopatra or something. Cleo walks into a bar with 2 gal pals and seduces some dude to “play her”. All the lotto/scratch it game commercials have the tag line “the lottery is for entertainment purposes only, not for investment opportunity”. But hey, its for the schools! They toss in another ad imploring players to not spend all their time gambling in front of their machines. How civic minded of them.

    Oregon is about broke.The state gambled with gov. employee PERS funds in the stock market… of course the tax payers should have to make up for the market crashing. Go buy some lotto tickets! Powerball is at 89million! (25 million after tax/instant payout)

    Soda pop is bad. Plastic bags are bad. But play powerball for a chance to win a big burger in a field carried by hot chicks. (remember, sexism is wrong folks unless it sells lotto tickets!)

  11. #11 |  Jozef | 

    I find it interesting how the opponent vilifies casinos. From a research I did two years ago, casinos have a gross margin of 8.5%, while government lotteries have a gross margin of 50%. In 2007, governments collected $29.8 billion in profits and taxes from government lotteries, but only $5.2 billion from casinos and $1.44 billion from racetrack operations. So if anyone has vested interest in gambling, it’s primarily the federal, state and local governments. And they are acting much more cutthroat than casinos ever cut – government lotteries are in fact a regressive tax, with much worse odds than casino games.

  12. #12 |  Cyto | 

    Bobzbob: Electronic slots, for example, are programmed to pay out in patterns that manipulate the brain’s chemical “reward” system

    From my freshman psychology class oh so many years ago: Random? Random, low probability payout is the most addictive. That’s hardly “programmed to manipulate the brain” any more than a pair of dice is programmed to manipulate the brain.

  13. #13 |  Andrew S. | 

    I’ll give one thing to Radley’s opponent: At least he’s consistent. Most people I talk to who are against internet gambling have no issues with state-sponsored horse racing or lotteries.

    Also, we should have a new policy that every comment here start with “Dear Sir,”. Class this place up a bit!

  14. #14 |  Rhayader | 

    Dear Sir —

    I am truly sorry about that whole thing with your wife.

    Respectfully yours,

  15. #15 |  Zargon | 

    Frankly, focusing on the poll results is silly. I’d be shocked if even 2% of those voting in the poll are people who watched the debate and changed their mind. Most people just ignore everything that doesn’t confirm their world-view.

    So it’s pretty clear the poll got linked to a large group of people who disagree with you. Who cares? It kind seems like a positive to me, because maybe a few of them will be bothered to actually watch the debate, and maybe 1 or 2 of them might actually engage their cerebral cortex and think about what it means to make gambling illegal and the consequences thereof.

  16. #16 |  Zargon | 

    From my freshman psychology class oh so many years ago: Random? Random, low probability payout is the most addictive.

    I knew about the experiment with the lever-pushing mice that showed this before, but for some reason, upon reading this, I just applied it to the MMOs I no longer play. I used to think it was really annoying that they made end-game rewards drop by ridiculously low random chance (all MMOs I know of do this). I figured if they wanted people to play longer, they ought to just make it so you needed to kill, say, 100 bosses and you’d get it rather than having it drop from the boss at 1% and have some people frustrated to the point of tears when they go 0/1000 on it, while the next guy really doesn’t care about the item but goes 1/1 on it.

    But now it’s all too obvious. MMO devs clearly read about the mice who did nothing but hit the lever when given rewards randomly for doing so, applied it to their games, and ended up rather successful for doing so.

  17. #17 |  Nick T. | 


    Can you explain how your proposed Constituional Amendment about giving only free speech rights to people would affect record companies and music studios and whether the government could regulate and censor their products willy nilly since there would be no recourse or free speech for those non-people entities?

    Are you aware of whether or not any SC Justices concluded that corporations were not protected by free speech in the Citizens United case? Are you awre of whether or not the government (or anyone ever for that matter) argued that free speech did not apply to the corporation in that case?

    Do you honesty believe that, denied of free speech protection, our amazing Congress members would suddenly pass laws forbidding campaign donations of all sorts, and that corporate influence on politics would suddenly dissappear?

    Are you in favor of restricting other parts of the Bill of Rights to only people? Should the FBI be allowed to raid the ACLU’s offices and grab whatever papers they want because the 4th Amendment doesn’t apply to non people? (After all the very language of the 4th Am. indicates it only applies to people.)

    Lastly, did you really think those Amendment proposals through? Not really huh?

  18. #18 |  Kevin | 

    Gary’s rad.

  19. #19 |  Caby | 

    Wow… can’t believe your numbers slid like that… Another example of why we have a representative form of government… when you have one-man-one-vote, there’s no accounting for what crazy thing the public might vote for… Baptist convention… LOL, probably just the general public…

  20. #20 |  Robert | 

    @ #42 Gary,

    “If I play in a poker game and get cheated, I can sue the… oh no wait, I can’t, because poker is illegal and so I have no legal way to pursue cheating and fraud.

    Hmm, if poker was legal and a gambling establishment was found to be cheating me, I would be able to take them to court in the same way I could for any other business that is acting fraudulently.”

    Then that’s not a private game with no “house” taking a cut then is it? If someone cheated you in a private game, even if poker was 100% legal, exactly how would you go about sueing them and expect to win? I agree that we should be able to go play poker at a lightly regulated business. California manages to do it and has card houses all over the place. I’d love to be able to go play real poker (not video based poker where the cards are dealt by a computer) somewhere that’s not a 10 hour drive away from me.

  21. #21 |  Gary | 

    @ #69,

    You’re right that you’d have a very hard time winning a lawsuit against a private poker game even if gambling were legal. Technically you have legal recourse, but I imagine it would be near impossible to actually prove you were cheated. So I stand corrected for implying that legalizing gambling would add legal recourse to this specific situation.

    I do take issue with it being characterized as a bamboozle, however. You can find people who cheat at almost any activity in life, but that doesn’t make the activity itself fraudulent. Legalized gambling at least allows the choice between (a) playing in a private game and risk getting cheated, or (b) pay a house cut at a gaming hall and have protection.

    However, based on what you said, it sounds like we agree on that anyway.

  22. #22 |  Anonymous | 

    I’m on many odd mailing lists-

    Good morning,

    I need you to please vote today in The Economist’s poll
    on this statement:
    “Government should have no restrictions on gambling.” The Economist is
    holding a debate on the issue and gambling interests are disproportionately
    skewing the results. Below is our opening statement in the debate. It is an
    important issue in an important forum and I strongly urge you to make your
    view heard. A vote to stop predatory gambling is a No vote.

    Can you please vote right now?

    Also, please forward this request to your network and urge them to vote.

    If you support our work, please consider making a tax-deductible
    contribution here.

    Thank you.


    Les Bernal

  23. #23 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Bobzbob wrote:

    Of course a predatory operation that impoverishes a portion of society has negative effects on society as a whole, and reduces individual freedoms across society through economic and social drains.

    Well said, but what does Congress have to do with this discussion!

    But seriously…

    I still believe in “buyer beware”. This does not mean all manner of already-illegal activity should go unpunished. We already have defined (in some cases “clearly defined”) business practices for gambling. In essence, gambling operations have learned that they don’t need to adopt predatory practices to ensure full seats at blackjack tables. In fact, the most predatory gambling practices I’ve seen have been for state run lotteries.

    We also have the issue of the role of government. In this case, does the government suppress one activity (gambling) to better enable something else (financial responsibility)? I’d say no. I’d rather have government in the job of protecting individual freedom first and enable people to “enjoy the benefits and suffer the consequences” of their personal choices.

    If you say “We’ll have to support thousands of broke families due to gambling”, then that is a problem with socialism and not gambling.

  24. #24 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    If gambling were legal, why on Earth would you ever go to a private poker game where there is a chance of cheating?

    Instead, you can come to Boyd’s House of Poker where we are fully licensed by the private gambling inspection professionals at Price-Coopers Waterhouse.

    Whenever a discussion breaks out on legalizing something, it is important to remember that the rest of the capitalist society doesn’t just stand still. They rush in to provide goods and services to meet quickly developing demand. Just don’t leave licensing and inspections up to the government.

  25. #25 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Just thought about something: if gambling and drugs ever became legal, what would our massive police state do? The union wouldn’t allow a decrease in numbers, so they’d most likely bother us in a dozen different ways.

    No, the cops wouldn’t be busy with crimes from legal drugs and gambling.

  26. #26 |  BSK | 

    Wow. I just went over to read the rebuttals and any hope that your opponent had of me supporting him (which was minimal to begin with) went out the window with his little anecdote about the bank robber.

    His contention that only an evil as horrible as gambling could turn this little old lady into a bank robber is abhorrent. He seems to be resting on the notion that short, middle-aged women in heavy coats and scarves are the bastions of virtue and any bad deed they commit must be the result of corruption by an unspeakable evil. Seriously? What if the person in question was a burly, young guy in a tank top? Or a construction work? Or a tall woman in hot pants? This woman clearly had issues outside of gambling. If she didn’t piss her money away at the tables she would have found another vice to become addicted to and would throw her money at that. He wants to act as if gambling corrupts otherwise good people and that good people are defined as short, middle-aged women in winter clothes. Please.

    Yes, gambling is a potential outlet for people with addictive personalities. Yes, some people can do great harm to themselves through excessive gambling. But these people have issues long before they step into a casino. Blaming gambling and excusing the individual is ridiculous. Especially if that excuse is predicated upon the individual’s age, or gender, or height, or choice of clothing.

  27. #27 |  markm | 

    Bobzbob: So you don’t think the New York Tmes, Inc., should have freedom of speed?