clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Why suckers always lose and the house always wins

People complain about taxes. But you never hear anyone complain about the government’s rake from gambling, whether that be at casinos, the lottery or sports betting.

When people gambling, they have fun losing their money, writes Phil Kadner. It’s not like having the government collect taxes.
AP Photos

I bet I have seen 1,000 commercials for legal sports books in Illinois since the start of the baseball season.

I’m not complaining. It just seems strange. I can remember when baseball officials let it be known they wouldn’t tolerate sports gambling. That was why the team owners created the position of baseball commissioner following the Chicago Black Sox scandal in 1919, when Sox players took bribes from professional gamblers to throw the World Series.

Years passed and Pete Rose, one of the greatest hitters of all time, was accused of betting on baseball games and banished forever from the game. He is not in the Hall of Fame. I don’t think you can even say his name in Cooperstown.

Let me make it clear that I am not averse to gambling, although I am bothered more than I thought I would be by the appearance of gorgeous spokeswomen in short skirts urging old men like me to wager their Social Security checks. The commercial pitch may be aimed at young men and even women, but I always think the commercials are talking directly to me.

I’m in favor of gambling. Especially, legalized gambling.

Billions of dollars are wagered on sports each year and now that government can get a percentage of the take, it’s a wonderful thing.

I appreciate the irony because I would wager that 82% of the people betting online complain about their taxes. Income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, payroll taxes, it really doesn’t matter, people hate paying taxes.

They will tell you they can’t afford to pay any more taxes and that government just wastes the money feeding poor people and educating their young.

But you never hear anyone complain about the government’s rake from gambling, whether that be at horse tracks, casinos, the lottery, or sports betting. There are even cute little “gambling cafes” in neighborhood strip malls for your convenience.

People who can’t spare another dollar for public schools, police departments, road repairs and Social Security are suddenly so flush with money they don’t even care how the government spends its share of the revenue, so long as they’re getting points on their favorite team.

People have fun losing their money. It’s not like having the government collect taxes.

In fact, if you took all the money Americans spend on gambling and illegal drugs, you might have enough to fund universal health care for every person in the country.

And that makes me think of marijuana and how the folks on Wall Street are investing billions of dollars betting on the growth of corporate cultivated hemp in the U.S. and Canada.

Many years back, I saw Cook County police raid a marijuana patch in the middle of the forest preserves. They caught the fellow tending the field, who had been sleeping under a rain parka propped up by a tree limb. He had been living for weeks on cans of beans.

He spoke no English and the police estimated his age at 15 or 16. It was common for drug cartels to bring these kids up from Mexico, dump them off in a field and leave them there until the marijuana crop was ready for harvesting.

Now there are corporations developing marijuana fields and people highly skilled in agriculture in charge of the crops. They’re paying hard cash for government licenses and creating jobs for taxpaying citizens.

The suckers are high and happy, and they never think about the government sticking its hand in their pockets.

Heck, I would love to see DraftKings posters hanging on the state Capitol Building and video poker games in the corridors of Chicago’s City Hall. People hate their government, don’t trust their leaders, but gleefully give away money for a spin at the wheel or a roll of the dice.

Democracy may survive. But I don’t like the odds.

philkadner@gmail.com

Send letters to letters@suntime.com.