Betting on Us Losing: Pimping our Most Vulnerable

Jan 9, 2015

Dear Matt Galloway, host of CBC’s Metro Morning, Toronto
Re:  Your interview with Ontario Lottery & Gaming staff about its launch of an online gambling site

Years ago I did a contract for Senator Lois Wilson with respect to a piece of gambling legislation that would have permitted the loosening of gambling restrictions on inshore ships (if I recall correctly).  I learned more than I ever wanted to learn about gambling, examining the experience of high gambling jurisdictions in the United States (Las Vegas and Atlantic City) and connecting with a U.S. Senator who had concentrated a high percentage of his office budget on research and staffing around issues related to gambling.  Very interesting stuff.

My conclusions after all of that research and writing:

  • The unique mandate of governments is to collect tax revenues in order to deliver social services as part of their central mandate to care for the well-being of their citizens.
  • Our governments are increasingly choosing to forego revenues in the form of corporate taxation in a misplaced devotion to the Friedmaniacal, never-true notion of trickle-down (remove all impediments to the natural, unregulated upward flow of wealth from many to fewer hands and, thus released, that wealth will inevitably flow downward in the form of investment and jobs, etc.) OR, more likely, continuing to hide behind a discredited theory, hoping that repetition will make it true in the minds of an ill-informed citizenry – in order to meet obligations to campaign finance contributors.  (The Reaganite/Thatcherite push to implement Friedman’s inanities marked the beginning of a return to inequities not seen since 1929.)
  • This refusal to tax progressively, to even talk, these days, about the income-generation side of the equation in favour of cuts cuts cuts, telling us that this is what we want, forces policy-makers to seek out other ways to make up foregone revenue – including promoting an activity that bets on the vast majority of the participants losing.
  • Social service budgets should be funded by progressive taxation, not by selling bricks or naming rights or other health care and education bake-sale methods, and NOT by incenting gambling.
  • Gambling disproportionately attracts the attention and scarce dollars of the desperate and the marginalised; it is BETTING on our most vulnerable neighbours LOSING – and thus, unconscionably, a form of PIMPING.

And these points do not even touch upon the percentage of ill-gotten dollars that actually makes it into government coffers.  Unlike U.S. agreements that at least keep the dollars in the country, the majority of the profits of government-run gambling goes to foreign companies.

Matt, the question you raised with the OLG person – why are we doing this? – is not answered by his insistence that we NEED to do this in order to tap into that $500M in online gambling going overseas. Why are we doing this? Because we are denying revenue that should be raising people out of poverty with one hand while incenting with the other hand a social ill that multiples the suffering of those who need social justice, not government pimping.  Gambling is not going to go away any more than prostitution; but that doesn’t mean we hang out a shingle and get into the business.


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