Not Completely Sold on Casinos

On the front page of this morning’s The Sun News, the primary newspaper of Myrtle Beach, appeared a story about casinos. The state of South Carolina is looking to improve its roads and in order to accomplish this, funding is needed. An idea that has been proposed to raise the necessary money is to build casinos.

Of course, the proposal has supporters and critics. The article in the newspaper did a nice job reporting on both sides of the argument. It basically boils down to this: Gaming is an extremely effective way to generate revenue. In fact, it works so well that 40 states in this country already have casinos. On the other side of the coin, casinos can lead to irresponsible behavior and crime. Many lives are destroyed by gambling addicitons and bad decisions.

I always hate not taking a side, but I have a tough time throwing my full support behind either the pro-casino or anti-casino stance. At the core, the arguments made by both camps are valid. Casinos are a gold mine for the economy but of course there is a price, the non-monetary kind, that comes with them.

The moment I turned 18, my friends and I hit the Vegas style gaming that was available to Washington state residents. Fueled by the poker craze that overtook the country a couple years before I became a legal adult, I was ecstatic to finally leave the basements of my friends and enter the big boy gambling establishments. It was an absolute rush and we all had a lot of fun…initially.

However, it didn’t take me long to figure out that gambling was not profitable. I lost much more than I won but I continued to go with my friends. We were heading to the casino multiple times a week. Thankfully, my casino days ended when I went off to college in a different state. When living in Montana, the poker machines and slots didn’t call my name like the Vegas style tables in Washington. My thirst for Blackjack, Paigow, and live poker tables slowly went away.

The same can’t be said for everyone else in my circle who I gambled with. Many ended up throwing thousands of dollars away and had to admit that they had a real problem. It wasn’t pretty.

These days, I consider myself a responsible gambler. When I go home to Spokane, I love going out to Northern Quest, a gambling resort, with my family. Because I can hardly stand to lose any money, I will gamble away $20 and call it good. While I am at Quest, I will spend money on food and drink and basically support the economy through other means besides gambling. For pro-casino folks, they would probably point at me now and say “This is the type of person we are targeting. The responsible, laid back guy who knows his limits and enjoys the atmosphere.”

But I wasn’t always this guy and that is why I understand the anti-casino stance. Then again, I also can concede that just because I was vulnerable when I became of age doesn’t mean that other people will be as well.

Basically I think we have to ask this: Will the dollars that will undoubtedly flow in from casinos justify the lives that will be ruined? It is a tough question and I can’t answer it. Don’t Blink.

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