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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?

33 thoughts on “Commentary: Alabama’s love affair with gambling”

  1. I can’t pass up entering the debate on this topic.

    Just because you can’t stop an activity doesn’t mean the state should sanction it.

    We can’t stop murder, but we can penalize the commission of such an act. We can’t stop teenagers from drinking, but we can minimize their opportunities to get it. We can’t stop people from abusing prescription painkillers, but we can regulate the prescription process.

    I’m not a progressive or a liberal, but I find the regressive nature of any lottery or gambling reprehensible. Lotteries help middle class families at the expense of the poorest. That bothers me.

  2. I think it show the backward attitudes of some Alabamians.

    Coming from a small town in Alabama that has not changed one iota from since I left it 25 years ago, I can vouch for the total lack of cooperation between some of the local big fish and ANYTHING that might be a step forward.
    That seems to be the biggest flaw in townie mentality.
    Instead of letting the pond run off into a larger body of water where everyone can prosper from the abundance, The local big fish try to keep everything as isolated as possible so that they can still remain the Big fish.


    It might hurt some people’s feeling to feel like they cant legislater thier morality on other people and God knows…..WE CAN HAVE THAT!!!!

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  4. Michael in Portugal

    I with you, Cap! While we’re at it, why don’t we just legalize marijuana, or heroin, or meth just for tax reasons? I mean, just think what the revenues would look like then? Forget about our families or our society in general. Bring on the tax dollars!

  5. Gambling unlike illicit drugs or murder is legal in (lottery) Tenn, GA & FL. There are legal casinos in Mississippi and on Tribal land in Alabama. There are numerous dubious, but legal internet sites that people can Gamble on and dog tracks and bingo halls in Alabama. Gambling is already legally here the only question is are were going to get tax revenue from the activity or are we going to lose that revenue stream to the States listed above. If your point is that gambling is morally reprehensible and regressive in nature you might be right, but the ship has already sailed.

  6. Michael in Portugal

    Taxman, would you say the same thing (about the ship sailing) if TN, GA, and FL decided to legalize heroin and meth after they had already legalized pot? Or, would you fight to keep AL, who also legalized pot, from doing something more destructive and counterintuitive to society’s well being? Just curious?

  7. Auburn is a joke the fan formerly known as Ballplay Indian

    Cap…..Are you going to argue with that ?

    These numbers are blatent oversigning. No way around it. But Im sure you will spin it away somehow.

  8. Auburn is a joke the fan formerly known as Ballplay Indian

    As far as gambling goes……Its not good. tmc……You say that little fish want it outlawed so they seem like big fish…….What about your people in Montgomery….They have been selling out to try to get it for years. You want to see gross neglect of tax dollars…Then pass a lottery. They money grabbing will be monumental. And sickening.

  9. Michael gambling already legally occurs in this state. No one gets drunk off of gambling and kills four in an auto accident (weed) or dies the first time they try a slot machine (heroin or meth). Some people get addicted to gambling and spend money on it they should not. Some people become alcoholics, some people take risk for the adrenaline rush and some people eat themselves to death. You can not legislate moderation or common sense. As I stated at the beginning of this post legal gambling is already in Alabama the only question is are we going to tax it. I am sure your opinion on this matter will not change. Just remember that people like you have the Creek Indians and Milton McGregor laughing all the way to the bank.

  10. Ballplay I beleive if gambling is legalized it should go in the general fund and should be exempt from earmarks. You are very correct about the corruption in Montgomery, the money grabing is already sicking.

  11. Good responses… as I had hoped.

    If this year is anything like the years I spent at the University of Alabama there will be parlay cards passed out at fraternities, and most people in the know will have contact with several bookies. Again, what’s the line on Alabama-Virginia Tech…? The game is still two months away and there has probably been an early line on it since the day it was announced for the schedule.

    Listen to JOX radio and probably one third, of the conversations will center on gambling lines and speculation.

    Gambling can certainly be very dangerous…

    The biggest point I was trying to make is that we in Alabama need to get a better hold on it….REFORM our current laws about it… make them very clear as to avoid all these silly things like slot machines cloaked as bingo… and tax it somehow so it will benefit others and offset the social problems that already exist because of it.

  12. please dont repeal gambling in Alabama,,,,Yall are helping send my son to college,,Keep buying those lottery tickets….

  13. Auburn is a joke the fan formerly known as Ballplay Indian

    Taxman…….I know your a CPA , but the general fund……theyve been looting that thing for years.

    It should be earmarked for education only.
    But even then , they would find a way to get their paws on it.

    Are you seriously suggesting that gambling hasnt killed anyone ? Ill take the odds on that, and I dont gamble. People that cant pay their gambling debt that strangely disappear would disagree……..If they could. But they are swimming with da fishes. Thats a whole nother issue with gambling. With gambling, comes organized crime.

  14. The general fund is in much worse shape than the ETF. There is already entirely to much earmarked to education. If you would like to see corruption and wasteful spending I give you Paul Hubbard and the AEA.

  15. Here’s something to think about…

    Years ago I did a story on the lottery for the Eufaula Tribune. Eufaula is right across the Chatahootchee (hooter than a hootchie coochie) River. Cross the river and you are in Jawga where you can buy tax free groceries and lottery tickets.

    Po Folks where spending their welfare and disability checks on cheap cuts of chicken and lottery tickets.

    Here;s what’s interesting. Tax dollars from Alabama Po Folks (welfare, disability money) were being partly recycled into the government of Georgia via the lottery tickets and helping them become Dawgs or Rambling Wrecks or whatever.

    Just a thought

  16. Auburn is a joke the fan formerly known as Ballplay Indian

    Everyones general fund is hurting right now. Before this huge downturn, our State was in good shape. Hard to know if those numbers were inflated or not. But there was a giant surplus. If it went into the general budget it would be like a Cessna flying into the Burmuda Trianle. It would end up lost. But I know what your saying about the AEA….My wifes a teacher and I get their rag for a newsletter monthly. For those who dont know, the AEA is the democratic party, and the democratic party is the AEA. I loathe both. Not to mention I wouldnt wipe my rear with that rag they put out. Ive pleaded and begged my wife to get out of the AEA. they have teachers brainwashed across the state, even the conservatives, into thinking that they are crucial to them. They are not . They try to throw out propoganda in every letter with stories about a teacher being defended with AEA lawyers, etc. Basicly , they are a teachers union. Its a travesty.The only way to ensure against the earnings being squandered (wich keep in mind , Im against) would be to have an elected board to govern it. Just my opinion.

    Hunter, basicly what your saying is that Im paying for Georgias lottery even though Im not even buying a ticket. I know………It burns me up.

  17. My first wifes Mother IS an gambling addict. She has spent more money than most of us have to go to Mississippi the Dog Tracks and Private Poker houses. She owes me and even my mother THOUSANDS! She tears her family up(one reason im no longer in the family). If you dont “LOAN”
    her money she will even result to VIOLENCE! No gambling isnt WEED!!! ITS WORSE. TaxMan are you sure you didnt mean alcohol in that accident senario? Sorry just never heard of smoking a joint and causing that kind of carnage?
    But I have seen someone who together as a couple made over 200k a year and has NUTHIN!!!!

  18. Auburn is a joke the fan formerly known as Ballplay Indian

    Dang omni………Talk about the ultimate mother in law…….shessh. That would be enough to make the pope cuss.

  19. OMNI

    Many people who are violently opposed to something (gambling, smoking, drinking)that other people view as a matter of personal choice, have some deep first hand connection to it and would like to save others from the hell they had to endure.

    Prohibition probably kept many people from drinking, but it also created gangsters with Tommy Guns who sprayed a lot of bullets.

    Our modern war on drugs has created an overcrowded prison system with many people incarcerated for non-violent drug crimes.

    Then there are the drug lords who will tie a cement block to your ankle if you cross them and drop you in a lake somewhere…..

    I don’t advocate legalization of every thing under the sun, but I do believe there are better ways to deal with gambling in Alabama, with marijuana across the country and with a host of other things.

    I have known some gambling addicts too and OMNI… I know the kind of frothing at the mouth wide-eyed monsters they can turn into when they’ve squandered their last nickel and still have that gambling bug. It is a nightmare.

  20. I’m getting addicted to this conversation, so I’m getting up from the table while I feel I’m ahead. I’ll check back tomorrow and hopefully see some more thoughtful debate.

  21. Quit ridin the fence, alabama, either you’re all in or all out? I vote all gamblin should be illegal!

  22. Mr. Cap,

    Will you please inform me of how a lottery is a “regressive” in nature? The last time I checked, a person chooses whether or not to purchase a lottery ticket. Unlike a tax, they make a volitional choice to purchase the ticket. I think lotteries are great, no matter the odds of winning. Pay a dollar for a chance at a windfall,, good deal to me.

    If you want regressive, then talk about taxing food and taxing the poor on their wages,,, among the other silly things that are done in Alabama. Here’s a really good idea. Talk about why in Alabama you can only protect 3k in personal property from execution….when the national standard is 15k. Also, in Alabama you can protect a mere 5k in equity within your homestead. Anyone know where you can get a decent house for 5k? Now that’s a shining example of how this state loves its people.

    Don’t talk about lotteries and keeping the poor from doing themselves in. There is such a thing as Natural Selection. I have the same objection against lottery bans as I do against arguments for keeping areas dry. People choose to do these things.

    People in Alabama need to stop trying to legislate morality. We’re not our brother’s keeper.

    To me, a lottery is merely a way to allow for people to voluntarilly pay the state money. That’s all they are. So what if it’s a tax on idiots?

    On the other hand, the only good reason to not have a lottery in Alabama is to keep some legislators from getting a new suit. Too many Montgomery boys are crooks and they will dip into that pot over and over.

    As for your post on Brian Cook. Amen.

  23. Hunter, the Golden Nugget in Vegas has Bama listed as an early 4 pt favorite. I would expect the bookies to start the line about there, as well. Personally, I’d take Va Tech and the points on that one.

  24. i bet football for three years. it took me that long to figure it out.

    the first year i couldn’t miss.

    second: lukewarm.

    the third i learned what monday night football is for: catching up.

    (which you usually don’t)

    there’s no drug i ever did (and, yes, i DID inhale!) that matched the feeling of the adrenaline rush watching a game win for me did!!!

    but there’s also no crash worse than having to pay up tuesday.

    in the latter days of my addiction i had a three team ten point teaser. (you get three teams and the line plus ten points each, sounds easy, right??)

    i had won the two noon games. the three o’clock game was atlanta at san fran. joe montana v. one of those horrible falcon squads of the day.

    the line: sf – 14. my bet to win the money? montana, craig and co. had only to win by five. load the boat!

    i fell asleep sure of my win. i awoke to find atlanta kicking a field goal to go up 24 – 3 at the half and went on to win 42 – 21. i lost thousands on that one.

    (that was an interesting quirk of my addiction. from one weekend to the next, i really couldn’t recall win and loss totals. each new weekend new life. the last long forgotten. another: my win percentage always much better for others than myself)

    i quit.

    but i don’t oppose legalized gambling on those grounds.

    if we had a less corrupt, more efficient state gov, my opposition would fade.

    i just can’t justify in my mind handing that kind of money/power to those in montgomery who mishandle, to the degree they do now, more.

  25. Why allow gambling, isnt having the police harrass people left and right and write tickets for no reason (except to raise revenue) enough?

    Honestly folks, All you have to do in the state of Alabama to aget pulled over is drive after 12:00 am or have an out of state tag.

  26. Auburn is a joke the fan formerly known as Ballplay Indian

    Again, If you like gambling….Thats your business. In this state, the poeple handling the money are more the problem . It would be akin to giving Barrack a blank checkbook……..Oh , wait a minute…..Bad analogy. He already has one. ………..It would be akin to giving Larry Langford a blank checkbook. Just not real smart.

  27. BINGO = a few get rich
    Lottery = Millions get educated (e.g. If we mirror GA Lottery)

    More than $10.8 Billion from lottery to the Students of Georgia.
    More than 1.1 million HOPE Scholarship recipients
    more than 940,000 four-year-olds to Pre-k programs throughout the state

    Go to:

  28. Auburn is a joke the fan formerly known as Ballplay Indian

    Lottery Lady…..This isnt Georgia….While I wouldnt move to that place for nothin, Theie government runs like a well oiled machine compared to ours.

  29. Ya know heres the funny thing if I had to vote I would vote for IT! Just because I think responsible adults SHOULD have a choice 🙂 and BI you dont know the half of it bro The real thing I regret is that My only 2 children STILL have to see it. But I still think we as adults should have choices, ya know?

  30. I agree with the person who said just because you can’t stop an activity doesn’t mean the state should sanction it. Gambling is a negative habit. Not much good comes of it. Find a social cause you care about and spend your time with that instead. It’s just as easy to develop a good habit as it is a bad one.
    Illiteracy is a growing epidemic in Alabama and elsewhere and it’s often accompanied by poverty. Poverty can simply be defined as an inability to make choices because it limits one’s options. Work on those.

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