Online gambling making its way to Delaware is as welcome news as allowing kids to smoke cigarettes. Who cares if it’s harmful – it means more tax revenue!
Legislation to legalize online gambling, as well as expand Keno instant lottery and pro-football parlay games available at non-casino venues, cleared the House and now heads to the Senate for consideration. But is it the best thing for Delaware? As everyone knows (or chooses to ignore), gambling is a regressive form of taxation, feeding on the most vulnerable members of our society. By agreeing to share its gambling spoils, the casino industry has ensnared our leaders with the panacea of promised revenues and tax dollars. What they neglect to calculate are the millions spent every year in social costs related to gambling. John Kindt, a professor of business and legal policy at the University of Illinois, refers to electronic gambling as “the crack cocaine of gambling addiction.” By pushing gambling online, the Markell administration is essentially making it easier to gamble, which will increase the number of problem gamblers. Are the new lottery revenues really worth gaining if they come at the expense of new addicted and problem gamblers? As long as their revenue keeps plugging budget holes, the answer will always be a resounding yes. A decade ago, the bipartisan U.S. National Gambling Impact Study Commission found that 80 percent of gambling revenue came from households that earned less than $50,000 annually. Even worse, gamblers with annual incomes below $10,000 spent almost three times as much on gambling than those making $50,000 or more. Money derived from gambling revenues is a windfall revenue masquerading as a tax on casinos (just as casinos and ESPN successfully lead us to believe gambling is really “gaming”). In reality, it’s simply another tax on Delawareans that can least afford it.
—–Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.