Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The tragedy of gambling politics in United States

Organized gambling is a scam and it is incredibly easy to confirm this; however the political and media establishments won't tell the majority of the public about it.

Instead they provide an enormous amount of legislation and gambling propaganda to promote it as much as possible, often trying to imply that it is good for society.This is routinely repeated much more often than the problems since those that promote gambling use a portion of the proceeds from the scams for advertising or friendly media; while those that oppose it don't have the funds to get their views across.

In order for organized gambling institution to make a profit they have to cover their expenses and pull in additional money for their profits; therefore in order to succeed they have to rig the game in their favor one way or another.

I once guessed that the average percentage that organized gambling institutions return to the players couldn't be much if any more than 75% of the money they pull in. After I made that guess, in the 1990's, the Boston Globe did a series on the lottery which claimed that the Massachusetts lottery only returned 60% to the players at the time but that others might return a higher percentage especially casinos which rely more on volume. They generally have to make it complicated which only adds to the overhead because if they come out and tell people how little they return the players would be much more likely to recognize it is a scam.

That should be all it takes to back up the claim that organized gambling is a scam. No matter how you spin it you can't change those simple facts.

Two of the most common arguments that might seem to justify it are that they provide jobs, helping the economy, and that they provide revenue for a worthy cause, like schools. Neither of these hold up if you consider a few simple principles that are routinely ignored by the media and the political establishment.

The constant call for jobs, gambling or anything else, routinely ignores the purpose of these jobs; they're supposed to provide a benefit for the consumer and payment for the worker. What benefit does the consumer get? As I said the odds are rigged so they don't have a significant chance of winning and even when they win they often waste it surprisingly fast, as the "Curse of the Lottery" clearly indicates.

They often argue that it is good for entertainment. This might seem good to those that want to believe in it; but I find it hard to believe that most people are entertained after they lose all their money and wind up with nothing. It is no better than cheep thrills with a hooker who steals all your money when you fall asleep.

The claim that it is good for revenue also falls apart quickly since it is a highly inefficient way of collecting revenue and it causes society much more than it benefits them as indicated in the following excerpt.

Is There a Cure for America's Gambling Addiction?

For years, lawmakers forgot why gambling was considered a "vice." In fairness to them, there weren't a lot of objective studies available on the consequences of legalized gambling. The many new gambling outlets sparked opportunities for social and economic research. By 1994, a considerable body of evidence showed that the expansion of legalized gambling destroys individuals, wrecks families, increases crime, and ultimately costs society far more than the government makes. Complete article

This was reported close to twenty years ago; the problem that stories like these are reported in a relatively low profile manner; and are quickly forgotten by most people. The people most likely to be gambling addicts probably don't even watch them at all. Those that aren't might not think it applies to them so they might be much less likely to vote on this issue or let it carry much if any weight.

Politicians seem to know this.

They practically never discuss gambling problems or attempt to inform the public about the problems that it brings. If they did there is a very good chance that the media wouldn't give them the coverage they need to make them viable or they might not be able to collect the campaign contributions they need to by propaganda political ads to control the information the voters use to make their decisions.

In many political campaigns when they do discuss gambling they often all seem to support one form or another, although, perhaps depending on who they collect their campaign contributions from they might support different forms of gambling. In 2010 all three Massachusetts candidates for governor, Tim Cahill, Charles Baker and Deval Patrick supported one form of gambling or another and they all portrayed it as a legitimate and good form of revenue for the state; but none of them adequately acknowledged the problems with it or the fact that it actually costs the state more money then it pulls in if they take into considerations the social problems including additional crime and welfare expenses.

The same pattern is repeating itself in many other political races. Gov. Maggie Hassan (se also here and here.) supports expanded gambling while taking money from gambling lobbyists; Ed Rendell called Leslie Stahl and other critics "simpletons" or "idiots" on one of the rare occasions that it was discussed in a relatively high profile manner and he took at least $5,000 in campaign contributions from gambling institutions and met with gambling company officials while on a fund-raising trip to Las Vegas. On top of that many of the donors that want tax breaks and want to raise money from other sources may also support gambling since it would involve collecting the revenue the government need from those without political power.

Don Siegelman is one of the extremely rare examples where a politician is actually prosecuted for activities that seem to involve bribery or implied bribery, in this case in an attempt to raise money for education through the lottery. George Will is concerned that it could "criminalize politics;" however this isn't the type of politics that the vast majority of us participate in. This is the type of politics that gives overwhelming advantages to those with an enormous amount of money. there are people from both political parties involved in the selling of influence and even if this was done for political purposes it sets a precedent that those in power would consider very dangerous since it could be used against them at a future date. Karl Rove and many of his allies are selling influence as much if not more than Don Siegelman and they probably could and should be prosecuted for the same reasons.

This case has often been cited as an example where politics were used as part of the decision to prosecute someone, by Karl Rove, in this case, but this discussion doesn't seem to attempt to prevent people from using influence unfairly. Don Siegelman appointed a gambling supporter to a post who donated to his campaign; but it is hard to imagine a gambling opponent being appointed to a similar post that might discuss the problems with gambling.

The constant tying of gambling income to education funds also creates another major conflict of interests since if educators are dependent on gambling interests to fund their activities they might hesitate to educate children about the problems that accompany gambling. There should be no doubt that we need to find a reliable way to fund education but it shouldn't involves activities that cost society more than they benefit it. This seems to be accompanied by many other efforts to undermine the education system like advertising in schools and the privatization of education through charter schools or other means.

A better educated public would almost certainly understand how bad gambling is; but unfortunately the politicians that make decisions about the education system cater to the same campaign contributors while doing this and decline to encourage them to teach people about the damage done by gambling.

The question from the article above, "Is There a Cure for America's Gambling Addiction?" almost certainly should be yes, or at least their is a partial cure for it; and if we focused more on it then a more thorough cure would almost certainly turn up.

For one thing if they spent much more time informing the public about how the odds are rigged then people would be much less likely to fall for this scam. Propaganda works best when it isn't challenged much if at all. In this case people would be much less likely to gamble if they were constantly reminded that they only return 60% to 75% of the proceeds to the players.

Furthermore if they did research into the social background of gambling addicts they would almost certainly find out more about the contributing cause; in fact this research has probably already been done although the media doesn't attempt to inform the public about this or any other important things they research properly. Instead the research is generally reserved for the few that seek it out; and ironically it is conceivable that those that promote gambling might do this for their purposes.

This is typical of how our political media and economic institutions treat social problems; instead of trying to find solutions for them they try to find out how to profit from them in the most effective way possible regardless of how much long term damage it does to society. When they do psychological research into gambling for the purposes of increasing profits this is proprietary trade secrets just like research into marketing manipulation of children and adults. Instead of passing laws requiring disclosure of this type of research even though it involves studying how to manipulate people, often children, they pass trade secrecy laws that benefit campaign contributors.

The gambling industry uses a portion of their proceeds to lobby, donate to campaigns, and buy advertising from the media; so the people in the best position to address these problems all have a conflict of interest.

This isn't limited to gambling of course; the health care industry uses a portion of the money they take from policy holders to buy ads and lobby against Single Payer Health Care; oil companies and retail outlets routinely use a portion of the proceeds they get from their customers to lobby against the best interest of their customers as well.

Advertisers are also trying to study how to manipulate people for profit in many other industries and the political establishment and media help them with that as well. Instead of educating the public about how they use psychology to convince children that Air Jordans are worth hundreds of dollars even though they're made in sweat shops and don't magically make them sports superstars. It is now a semi-regular occurrence for kids to kill each other some where in the country for these hyped up sneakers but no high profile effort is made to find out if advertising hype is a contributing factor.

Just like gambling profits are more important than understanding social problems and solving them.

The irrational equation of money with speech enables those that control large institutions to control the vast majority of information the public gets from the political establishment and the commercial media and pass on the expenses of their political activities to their customers, who also turn out to be their victims in many cases.

As I said previously the "Curse of the Lottery" clearly indicates that even the "winners" often turn out to be looser after they splurge and, in many cases fight over their new wealth. This may seem hard to believe but most gamblers are simply not good with their money. Just because a miniscule percentage of them really do beat the odds doesn't change the fact that they aren't good with their money so it shouldn't be much of a surprise that they have a lot of problems after "winning," as indicated in some of the articles about the "Curse of the Lottery" below.

Most people that don't see the problems with gambling \right off the bat are often more susceptible to appeals to emotions, like perhaps the following children that died as a result of their fathers gambling addiction.

They died forgotten: how gambling and alcohol shut the door on twins' lives

The twins who had been dead a week when their bodies were discovered in their cot at their home in Sunnybank, Brisbane, in 2008. Source: TheAustralian

E! Investigates Curse of the Lottery Part 1 of 3 12/0/2013

E! Investigates Curse of the Lottery transcripts

The curse of winning the lottery and becoming a millionaire

Biggest Loser? Gambler Dropped $127M in a Year

Google "Curse of the Lottery"

How Gambling Influences Politics and the Economy

National Gambling Studies

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