www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Embarrassing economists -10/24/2014, 9:13 AM

Sherow for House -10/24/2014, 9:13 AM

It can't get crazier (wanna bet?) -10/24/2014, 9:04 AM

Digital distractions -10/23/2014, 10:01 AM

Orman for Senate -10/23/2014, 10:01 AM

Federal persecutors -10/23/2014, 10:00 AM

Kids do count -10/22/2014, 10:31 AM

Needing the past in the future? -10/22/2014, 10:31 AM

In praise of hunting -10/22/2014, 10:30 AM

What is a CID? Will it work for mall? -10/21/2014, 10:22 AM

Judging importance on the ballot -10/21/2014, 10:22 AM

Kansas Speaks -10/21/2014, 10:22 AM

Paying for schools -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Joining forces for Orman -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Research before voting -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Davis is moderate? -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

The most important election in your lifetime -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Huelskamp stands out -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Kansas farm interests -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Keeping unfounded reports from 'going viral' -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

The age of cynicism -10/18/2014, 9:02 AM

Preventable diseases -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Second term needed -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Kansans deserve better -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Officially killing Americans -10/17/2014, 10:27 AM

New era at FHSU -10/16/2014, 10:01 AM

Roberts is right choice -10/16/2014, 10:01 AM

Crumbling Constitution -10/16/2014, 9:52 AM

Redbelly's future -10/16/2014, 9:52 AM

Kansas deserves better -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

Remember to vote on Nov. 4 -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

You almost feel sorry for Sean Groubert -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

Register to vote -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

Living on that 70 percent -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

New bullying problem for schools: parents -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

Cheerios, marriage equality, the Supreme Court -10/13/2014, 9:49 AM

Wedded bliss -10/12/2014, 5:54 PM

Who is the real fraud? -10/12/2014, 5:08 PM

Teenagers 'make some noise' -10/12/2014, 5:08 PM

Not so private property -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Federal funding -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Teacher indoctrination -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Vote Republican -10/9/2014, 9:49 AM

Non-partisan politics -10/9/2014, 9:49 AM

Teen driver safety week Oct. 19 to 25 -10/9/2014, 9:04 AM

FHSU party -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Poverty in America -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Let the women serve -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Time for new direction -10/8/2014, 9:49 AM

Improving Kansas economically -10/8/2014, 9:35 AM

Water abusers -10/8/2014, 9:35 AM

Play safe on the farm -10/8/2014, 9:34 AM

Where the money comes from -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

The president's security -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

Marriage equality -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

The sins of the father are visited -10/6/2014, 9:02 AM

Cannabis in America: The bottom line -10/6/2014, 9:20 AM

A reason to celebrate -10/6/2014, 9:20 AM

Gov. shields wealthy from paying for schools -10/5/2014, 2:07 PM

Passionate protest in defense of civil disorder -10/5/2014, 2:07 PM

October is time for baseball and, of course, film premieres -10/4/2014, 2:16 PM

Alley cleanup -10/3/2014, 10:01 AM

Will the West defend itself? -10/3/2014, 10:01 AM

Find another school -10/3/2014, 10:01 AM

It's better now -10/2/2014, 9:17 AM

The answer is to bomb Mexico? -10/2/2014, 9:17 AM

Falling revenue -10/2/2014, 9:17 AM

School facilities -10/1/2014, 9:27 AM

Look ahead, not back -10/1/2014, 9:27 AM

Secret Service needs to step up its game -10/1/2014, 9:27 AM

Roosevelts were true leaders -9/30/2014, 9:18 AM

Moral bankruptcy -9/30/2014, 9:18 AM

Expect some sort of change in Topeka -9/30/2014, 9:18 AM

'A tale of two countries' -9/29/2014, 9:59 AM

The last of the Willie Horton ads? -9/29/2014, 9:59 AM

Finding answers to the future of Kansas -9/28/2014, 2:20 PM

College: Where religious freedom goes to die -9/28/2014, 2:20 PM

Honoring Hammond -9/28/2014, 2:20 PM

Do statistical disparities mean injustice? -9/26/2014, 9:53 AM

World university rankings -9/26/2014, 9:52 AM

Kansas experiment -9/26/2014, 9:52 AM

Two anti-choice parties -9/25/2014, 10:03 AM

Not in the same old Kansas anymore -9/25/2014, 10:03 AM

Domestic violence -9/25/2014, 10:03 AM

Back to war we go -9/24/2014, 9:55 AM

Piling on the NFL -9/24/2014, 9:54 AM

Emma Watson looking for a few good men -9/24/2014, 9:54 AM

Renter runaround -9/23/2014, 7:32 PM

Enough is enough -9/23/2014, 9:02 AM

Life of politics in the state -9/23/2014, 9:02 AM

What is and is not child abuse -9/22/2014, 9:30 AM

Cannabis politics and research -9/22/2014, 9:30 AM

Future of The Mall -9/21/2014, 6:14 PM

Multiculturalism is a failure -9/19/2014, 9:52 AM

State education rankings -9/19/2014, 9:52 AM

Kobach gone wild -9/19/2014, 9:52 AM

Bias prevents civil discussion of education issues -9/18/2014, 9:35 AM

Immigration is American -9/18/2014, 9:35 AM

Costs to states not expanding Medicaid -9/17/2014, 10:14 AM

Medicare threats -9/17/2014, 10:12 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

Gambling and government

Published on -4/3/2014, 9:51 AM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

Did you fill out a March Madness bracket this year? In many states, if you put money in a pool, that's illegal.

The NCAA website warns, "Fans should enjoy ... filling out a bracket just for the fun of it, not ... the amount of money they could possibly win."

Give me a break. Americans bet more money on March Madness this year than on the Super Bowl.

Politicians can't quite make up their minds about gambling: They approve certain casinos and promote state lotteries but crack down on sports bets and some charity poker games. It seems government dislikes gambling, unless government gets to be the house.

Increasingly, government is. After locking up bookies for "dangerous and criminal" activities, such as running "numbers rackets," most states now offer much worse odds in state lotteries. Then they take money from taxpayers to advertise their scams.

Some states even run commercials that mock hard work, pushing the benefits of a long-shot jackpot. Poor people become poorer, because they buy most of the lottery tickets. Then politicians brag how money from the lottery helps the poor. It's disgusting hypocrisy.

Politicians award casino permits to politically connected businessmen who make most of their money from slot machines that offer miserable odds. But when "unapproved" websites offered Internet poker, at far better odds, the federal government charged the operators with "money laundering" and shut the sites down.

Recently, three states noticed people like Internet gambling so much that millions of dollars leave America and go to overseas websites. So New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada begged federal officials for permission to legalize some Internet betting and got it. Now other states might do it, too.

A group called the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling wants to prevent legalization. It warns: "Gambling will be available in every home, every bedroom, every dorm room, on every phone, tablet and computer."

It's revealing its ads are funded by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. He doesn't mind you gambling, obviously. He just wants you to go to casinos, such as those he happens to own.

Government, just as hypocritical, invites people to buy lottery tickets while simultaneously stamping out rival forms of gambling and warning us of the damage gambling can do.

And, yes, gambling hurts some people. Some wreck their lives and gamble away their life savings. How many gamblers? That's not clear. Maybe 2 percent, said critics of gambling.

But Patrick Basham of the Cato Institute argues gambling often is a symptom rather than a cause.

"It's very hard to disentangle all the things that are going wrong in that person's life," perhaps depression and other psychological problems. "The people who get into these problems tend to have difficulties."

I love gambling. But on my TV show, I gave Basham a hard time for arguing gambling is "healthy." Fun, maybe, but I told him I don't think it's healthy.

"You're wrong," he answered. "It's good for our emotional health ... physical health. ... It provides social interaction, which has all kinds of physiological benefits. Older people who gamble have less alcoholism, less depression than older people who do not gamble."

I can't vouch for the statistics. You can read his book, "Gambling: A Healthy Bet," and judge for yourself. What I do know, and hate, is with gambling, as with so many other activities, government tells us it knows best -- and then makes matters worse by banning things. The bans drive betting into the hands of criminals. Politicians turn small problems into big ones.

I wish politicians would notice their clumsy one-size-fits-all laws never can take into account how 300 million different Americans react to a complex experience such as gambling.

The way people gamble will vary, just as the way they drink or play sports varies. Most people are careful; some are reckless. But we don't respond by forbidding drinking or sports.

Individuals' brains, habits and tolerance for risk vary. It makes little sense for government to barge in and tell people how much money they can risk, or where they can do it.

John Stossel is host of "Stossel"

on the Fox Business Network.

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos

AP Breaking News