Our View: Gambling raids unnecessary

Andrew Richardson

In short: Crackdowns on illegal gambling are a waste of money and won’t solve the problem.

It’s a well-known cliché to people who call for the legalization of drugs: The easiest way to stop the war on drugs is to get rid of the drug laws.

The same could be said of Gov. Bob Riley’s war on gambling.

This past week, Riley has turned his figurative war on illegal bingo and casinos into almost a literal one. He has built an army with his Task Force on Illegal Gambling and marched on places like Country Crossing and Victoryland. The war is costing Alabama taxpayers thousands of dollars, and what Riley is doing might not work or even be legal.

In a sense, this whole campaign is a gamble.

But what’s the payoff?

If Riley manages to shut down every illegal casino in the state of Alabama, what happens then? Will Alabamians who want to gamble just stop? Not likely. Depending on where you live in the state, it isn’t that far of a drive to get to gambling safe havens in Mississippi like Biloxi and Tunica. Instead of gambling illegally in Alabama, the dice rollers and bingo players of the Yellowhammer State will just hop the border.

They’ll be taking all of their prospective tax dollars with them.

In a recession like this, it isn’t wise to spend a lot of money cracking down on something that people are still willing to spend money on. A state that values individual economic freedom should acknowledge the fact that these people are making their own choices with their own money and the government should not be making economic decisions for them.

The state could benefit from legal casinos. Not only would state-regulated casinos (not those on Indian reservations) be taxable, they would be a boon to businesses around them. Gamblers, especially those who just hit a jackpot, like to spend their money. It would be a valuable source of tax dollars, or at least an improvement over allowing quasi-legal casinos to operate with limited taxation.

Right now, Alabama is in a state of limbo when it comes to gambling and what is and isn’t legal. Casinos that fear raids are actively seeking loopholes in the law in order to stay in business. Riley’s task force is working hard to figure out how to crack down on gambling despite the best efforts of special interest groups and casinos themselves, and it’s all a waste of time and money.

Casinos aren’t the answer to our economic woes, but there are worse problems than gambling. Some people may see it as immoral, but to some people so are smoking and drinking. The state has few problems with adults who choose these risky behaviors, yet it does not let adults gamble with their money if they want to.

Alabama should stop raiding casinos and start taxing them. A state that can barely afford to educate its children shouldn’t be spending money to keep adults from playing bingo.

Our View is the consensus of The Crimson White’s editorial board.