How Not To Argue Against Georgia Casinos, Sports Betting

How Not To Argue Against Georgia Casinos, Sports BettingIn Georgia, the only legal form of gambling is the state lottery, which raises over $500 million each year for educational initiatives in the region. Indeed, the Georgia Lottery has been one of the most successful lotto models in the country, and the game continues to thrive.

That said, there has long been a push among certain state politicians to establish casino gaming (and now that PASPA has been overturned, presumably sports betting in Georgia, too), and the issue has caused an ideological split among the state’s representatives and its people alike.

However, there are good ways and bad ways to make one’s point (on either side), and George Mathis of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution chose the latter to bet against the merit of casinos – and sports betting – in his state. Here’s how not to argue against Georgia casinos and sports betting.

Mr. Mathis, the floor is yours:

“Other than my daily commute...I’m not fond of gambling. Or am I? I buy a lottery ticket every week. For $2, it’s a cheap source of hope.”

OK. You don’t like to gamble, but you gamble constantly. Got it.

Mathis goes on to work that “hope” pun, because, you know, the Georgia Lottery’s educational initiative is HOPE, or “the hope [that high school students] can afford to go to college.”

Yes, says, Mathis, this used to be a worthy system, where poor people could spend their meager income on a game with a nearly 0% win rate to send various strangers’ unprepared kids to college in order to learn marginally valuable life skills that the public K-12 school system failed to get across.

Indeed, in 1993 when the Georgia Lottery debuted, it paid 100% of the tuition at GA public schools. But, of course, ticket sales “haven’t kept pace with the cost of tuition, which rose 77 percent in a recent 10-year period.” (Which 10-year period Mathis is referring to is unclear, albeit inflation like that should probably be addressed separately from the context of gambling charities.)

Well, Mr. Mathis – can I call you George? George, this seems like an awfully good reason to supplement the lottery with some new, popular forms of wagering entertainment where winning is far more commonplace and that still provide ample funding for educational initiatives. Perhaps gambling, horse racing, and sports betting would move the needle a bit? No?

“I’m not rooting for casinos in Georgia, but, unlike many, I don’t draw much of a distinction between the different forms of gambling. In my experience, and several studies, all forms of gambling take more from the poor than it (sic) gives.”

Well, you are the expert here. I mean, you do buy lottery tickets, which is exactly the same as playing poker, after all.

Look George, here’s the thing about gambling: It’s a net loser for the gaming populace. That’s how it works. You know how HOPE pays for all that post-secondary tuition nonsense? Because millions of people – like yourself, for instance – put money into a pot. The entity running that pot takes out a bit for their trouble, and the rest is distributed back to the winners.

In the case of a lottery, there are very few winners. In the case of casino games and sports betting – which are not wholly luck-based – there are many winners. Indeed, a bad gambler can break even over the course of their “playing career.” A bad lotto player will lose thousands. You yourself lose $100 a year. Gambling takes more than it gives. It couldn’t exist if it didn’t.

So enough of the virtue signaling about poor people being taken advantage of. Now hit me with the weakest argument against Georgia casinos ever, if you please, George.

“The Georgia Lottery has been a big win for education, contributing an average of $3 million per day for HOPE and pre-K programs.”

No, George. That’s a good argument. It’s stupid that the state doesn’t use lottery income to fund K-12 initiatives so kids don’t have to be fooled into thinking that college is for everyone, but that’s OK. Education is a worthy cause, I guess. So again, I want your weakest argument – the one you justified your piece with.

“It’s doubtful a single casino, or even several casinos, could provide a revenue stream akin to the lottery. In Arizona, where 24 casinos operate, only $44 million was devoted to education in 2014. More than 25 percent of the proceeds went to pay raises for adults.”

Sweet bejeezus! That’s what I’m talking about, George! Yes!

See, casinos and sports betting and pony tracks and all that stuff are bad for Georgia because Arizona’s casinos – which, by the way, are all tribal casinos with extremely low taxation rates per the terms of their compacts (and which operate in close proximity to a little-known gambling outpost called Las Vegas) – only generated $44 million for education four years ago! And more than a quarter of the profits went to pay raises for grown-ups!

Well, hell, George, we can’t be giving pay raises to grown-ups. I mean, how will a child’s parents getting more income ever help that child educationally? If a kid isn’t living in a hovel and eating dirt, that kid can’t possibly lern 2 reed ind rite gud.

And I too am skeptical that the regulations and tax rates for commercial Georgia casinos would be different than those for tribal Arizona casinos. There’s just no way GA’s gambling industry could give local schools more than the worthless $44 million that Arizona gave to theirs. Perhaps if Georgia had 3.5 million more people than Arizona, that number would go up? Maybe? I don’t know. The whole thing seems far-fetched to me.

I really think you’re onto something here, George.

Let’s just hope your state legislators are onto something else.

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