Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The Big Bet

The Backstory:  As New Jersey’s own Governor Christie positions himself for a 2016 run for the presidency, I am considering the implications of a President Christie.  This is the first in a series of occasional discussions about the real leadership of Governor Christie.  Spoiler alert: I’m not a fan.

A few months ago, on-line gambling became legal in New Jersey.  From the comfort of our own homes, we can sink ourselves into debt and despair.  The on-line casino ads, which are everywhere, suggest how much fun it would be to roll the dice while going about our daily business.  The ads are clever, though a closer look is always chilling to me.  Somehow, I find it hard to believe that that regular folks cast a fishing line and then pick up their iPhone to play a round of poker.  Something tells me that on-line gambling is a lot less benign than the adverts suggest..  

In fact, legalization was a calculated decision by the state, which hopes to fill its coffers with millions of dollars.  Governor Christie’s fiscal year 2014 budget is counting on a $160 million a year from the games.  Thus far, the state has pulled in just 2% of that, a grand total of just north of 3 million.  There is no way that New Jersey will come close to the forecast $160 million.  In the event that we did approach that total, it would be a function of choosing a method of fundraising that is morally bankrupt.  It seems like a poor choice.

I  don’t oppose the existence of Las Vegas, and goodness knows I’m not opposed to gambling, per se.  I’ve bought the occasional Power Ball ticket (when the ads come on the telly warning me not to invest my life savings in lottery tickets, I know the time to buy a ticket has arrived).  I play in the office March Madness pool.  But I am aware that the primary losers in the gambling world are typically folks who can ill-afford to lose.  It horrifies me that my state, a place notorious for its environment of corruption, has chosen gambling to try and balance its budget.  The entire idea is simply ridiculous.  There is cold comfort in the notion that we will fail.

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