Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Legalize it (sports betting edition)

As states and municipalities struggle mightily to close ever-growing fiscal gaps, the moral relativism that I first mentioned in this post and followed up on in this post is seemingly spreading like wildfire. It's clear that politicians are truly terrible at actually cutting spending (hello again, Super Committee), such that the only realistic solution is on the revenue side. Raising taxes is perhaps even more unpopular than cutting spending, so there's a tendency for politicians to get a bit... creative.

I long ago predicted that this "creativity" would take the form of legalization and/or liberalization of certain vices--alcohol, drugs, and gambling. Well, Virginia proposed privatization of liquor sales (a relaxation of its somewhat puritanical stance on alcohol), and California and the federal government both separately began to consider the issue of legalizing marijuana. And now, to finish off the triumvirate, here comes New Jersey (who else?) with a proposal to legalize sports betting.
This month, New Jersey voters passed a statewide referendum that allowed the state to legalize sports betting.
Over the next year, the state will continue its push for legalization by passing a bill into law and ultimately challenging the federal ban on betting in court.
New Jersey's reasons for legalizing betting are two-fold: they need any additional revenue they can get to close the state's budget gap, and they want to jumpstart the steadily declining Atlantic City tourism industry.
Yup... this was clearly inevitable. For what it's worth, I am personally excited about the prospects of a new Las Vegas on my coast. I've never been to Atlantic City (because I'm not 80 years old, and... I mean... New Jersey), but legalized sports betting might change that. But more so than that, I'm both amused and intrigued that politicians (and voters) would rather loosen the moral fiber of their community than loosen their pursestrings and pony up a few extra bucks of their own to close the fiscal gap.

People will seriously compromise all semblance of moral instinct when their financial self-interest is at stake. But then, Fox News already taught us that, didn't they?

[Business Insider]

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