In short: Making gambling illegal does not stop people, so the state might as well gain tax dollars from it.
There are plenty of moral objections to gambling. The problem is that our government isn’t here to serve as the moral conscience for the people of Alabama. The fact is that 140 people in Montgomery should not decide the personal choices of 5 million Alabamians.
Illegal gambling and the current crackdown on it are both doing more harm to the state than legal gambling would. People already gamble all the time in Alabama. They just don’t pay taxes on it and they are not protected by the law. People who don’t gamble in Alabama but wish to hit up a casino just have to travel to Mississippi. Making it illegal to gamble in Alabama is not keeping Alabamians from gambling. So much for the moral imperative.
According to the American Gaming Association, Mississippi employed over 28,000 people in casinos and collected over $300 million in tax revenue in 2008. Mississippi taxes this revenue at a maximum of 12 percent.
If Alabama taxed gambling revenue at the same or a slightly higher rate and put the tax income toward education, funding would increase by a few hundred dollars per student. Sure, some of the tax money would have to go toward regulating the new legal casinos, but the cost of regulation would most likely be significantly less than the current cost of committing large numbers of state troopers to raid bingo halls.
Some of the tax money could help fund the Alabama Prepaid Affordable College Tuition (PACT) Program, which helps students pay for their college education. The program faces significant fiscal problems and its potential failure poses a threat to the opportunity of many Alabamians, including many here at UA, to afford their education. While legalizing gambling isn’t a perfect solution and won’t put every child in Alabama through school and into college, it could be a step forward.
Another potential step forward would be the institution of a state lottery. The Georgia Lottery and the HOPE Scholarship program it funds have become tremendous assets to our neighbors, encouraging high-achieving students to attend college and stay in Georgia. Alabama’s economy could definitely benefit from more college graduates, particularly if they stay home.
If Alabamians are going to gamble, they might as well help out their home state while they do it. As it stands now, the only people benefitting from our crusade against casinos and resistance to a lottery are casino owners in Mississippi and college students in Georgia. Alabama should help itself instead.
Our View is the consensus of The Crimson White’s editorial board.