Gambling a Bad Bet (Editorial)

What's this? Officials of Oaklawn Park at Hot Springs and Southland Greyhound Park are saying they could be out of business if either of a couple of casino gambling amendments are passed in the next election.

Now there's a news flash.

Casino gambling, as well as a lottery, would hurt the entire state, not just those two businesses.

Despite past defeats and bungled efforts to get other measures on the ballot, the big-time gamblers keep coming back for one reason: there's a lot of money to be made.

Legalized gambling is now a $50 billion-a-year industry in the U.S., making it one of the leading growth industries of the '90s.

Many tout gambling as a cure-all for economic woes. There are plenty of areas in Arkansas that could use an economic boost, but none of the casinos are planned for those areas. No, the casinos would be near the big towns, such as Little Rock, Fort Smith, Hot Springs, etc. It strikes us as odd, however, that the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers-Bentonville area, the second largest population center, is overlooked. If gambling is such a boon to an area, why not put casinos in, say, Marianna or Hoxie or Rison?

Most striking in the current plans to legalize casinos is the lack of any kind of state oversight. The ones making the big profits off gambling would be regulating it. Who in his right mind would consent to that?

Perhaps gambling can stimulate economic development, create jobs and boost tourism. But at what cost?

Driven by greed, gambling gives a false hope that people can escape from poverty through instant riches. Ultimately, they lose what little they had in the first place, putting themselves and their families at risk of having to be cared for by the state. It also undermines the work ethic by encouraging the fantasy that a person can get something for nothing and by not working.

Any way viewed, gambling is not the economic boon it's made out to be by those profiting from it. In many cases, gambling hurts existing businesses by taking away money that might otherwise have been spent at local shops.

We agree with the wise person who said: "Gambling is the sure way of getting nothing for something."