Commentary: Alabama’s love affair with gambling

(Editor’s note: Hunter Ford resurfaces after a hiatus to send in this essay.)
By Hunter Ford

“Never kept a dollar past sunset. Always burned a hole in my pants. Never pleased a school mamma. Never lost a second chance on love.”
– Keith Richards

Alabama’s love affair with gambling leaves it cheating on its own state with mistresses in Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, and in the case of really high rollers, places like Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas.

I have been to casinos in Mississippi and I’ve bought lottery tickets in Florida and Georgia. I bet almost all of you reading this have done one or the other of those things if not all, and perhaps more. Tell me then, those of you who would oppose gambling reform in Alabama, why?

Legalized gambling already exists in our state in the form of dog racing, Indian gaming establishments (are they really casinos?…haven’t beeen to one in Alabama) and lately these so-called bingo halls. I went into two different bingo halls near Birmingham this Fourth of July, to see what the fuss was about. They are full of electronic slot machines. I never heard anyone calling out numbers, and nobody shouted bingo!. The prizes where not pies and cakes or baskets of fruit. Cold hard cash is the reward. These “bingo halls” are also run by, or sponsored by, the Veterans of Foreign Wars…people who risked their lives so that the rest of us can say stupid things (freedom of speech) and do stupid things like gamble (privacy and independence) if we so chose.

I’m not going to get into all the legal or moral arguments about gambling. You dear readers probably have heard them all. What I want to do is provoke some responses from Capstone followers on the subject. I think everyone would agree that the taxation of gambling institutions in this state could be used for good things; air-conditioned school buses with seatbelts perhaps.

The legal wrangling over the new form of gambling provides us with another chance to regulate and tax gambling so that it may do some good for a greater majority of our citizens, and not just the owners of the establishments (basically raking in free money) or the few lucky people who win jackpots.

I know gambling can be hurtful to people who become addicted. But there is no way, in my opinion, to stop the demand. Like any other vice, laws against it never keep people from it.

A joke:
A guy was at a casino and saw a sign that read “Gambling problem? Call 1-800…” The guy dialed his cell phone and said.. “Yeah, hello… Look I’ve got a Jack and a six and the dealer is showing a Queen…What should I do?”

Let’s have some well organized regulation and taxation, some clear, well-planned laws and an end to the silly moralistic arguments and legal mumbo jumbo.

By the way, what’s the early line on Alabama-Virginia Tech?