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Americans love sports gambling and hate taxes, so let the suckers pay

The race to legalize sports betting is on. Illinois hopes to cash in to shore up the state's finances. | Wayne Parry | Associated Press

Americans who complain they are overtaxed found enough money to wager about $10 billion on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament this year. Almost $100 billion is bet illegally on college sports each year, according to ESPN.

About $5 billion was wagered legally in Nevada sports books in 2017.

That’s why Illinois and almost every other state wants in on the sports gambling business. One expert has predicted that by the end of the year, nearly half the states will have legalized gambling on sports.

OPINION

Illinois State Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside, is sponsoring legislation aimed at generating $200 million this year just from the sale of licenses to operations that want to operate sports books. Another bill seeks to raise hundreds of millions of dollars by selling the rights to operate sports books through the Illinois Lottery.

The effort to legalize sports betting, just like the attempt to legalize recreational marijuana use, is aimed at balancing the state’s budget for new Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Pritzker embraced both sports betting and recreational marijuana use during his campaign. Eventually, he’s hoping to create a graduated income tax that would help the state balance its books and pay down its long-term pension debt.

But the fair tax plan, as the governor calls it, requires a constitutional amendment to replace the current flat income tax. That will take more than a year to become law, assuming it is eventually approved by voters at the ballot box.

In the meantime, Illinois needs cash because the budget Pritzker proposed falls $1.1 billion short of expected revenues.

Illinois residents, like most Americans, hate paying taxes.

Skyrocketing property tax bills, the primary means of funding public education in this state, have created a taxpayer backlash.

Sales taxes in Cook County are the highest in the nation.

The state income tax was increased and still there isn’t enough money to fund public schools, public transportation, the court system, and road and bridge repairs. And then there are all those pensions and pension debts that the state has to pay.

Heck, this state has spent billions of dollars taking out loans to pay the bills it couldn’t pay on time.

There are folks who contend that gambling is the devil’s work. Well, come meet Satan. You will find him at the state’s horse tracks, at its 10 casinos, and at hundreds of video gambling parlors in family restaurants, bars and American Legion halls.

Stop in the convenience store for a pack of cigarettes (another evil source of tax revenue) or the liquor store for a fifth of Jack Daniels (yes, we love taking money from alcoholics) and you can play the state-run lottery.

This state has gone to hell in a hand-basket and we needed a credit to buy that wicker basket.

I’ve said this before. Americans hate paying taxes. But they love to gamble. They love to get drunk. And they really love to gamble.

Governments are running out of money. That means the federal, state and local governments (which rely heavily on vanishing big box stores for sales tax revenue). Fuel taxes fund road improvements, but with electric cars coming out, that source will be drying up as well.

But Americans want more stuff. They want government health care. They want government to pay for college. They want the government to fix all those old bridges that are falling apart. They want government to help when tornados, hurricanes, floods and fires destroy communities.

And they want new programs to stem the growing problems of climate change.

Some folks even want to spend billions of dollars to build a wall.

We need money for stuff. Let the suckers pay for it. That motto could replace “In God We Trust” on our currency.

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