Casino gambling: a sucker’s bet

A friend of mine just returned from a vacation in the Bahamas and brought back an interesting view of what he saw there.

He and his wife saw lots of casino gambling activity in the island nation … right next to some dirt-poor poverty. His takeaway? He doesn’t think casino gambling is much of an economic tool.

I mention this today because of a Texas Tribune interview with former Democratic state Sen. John Montford, who believes casino gambling ought to come to Texas. Funny. I always thought a lot of the ex-Lubbock lawmaker-turned Texas Tech chancellor-turned AT&T executive. I still do. But I also think casino gambling is a bummer of an idea for Texas.

My friend’s observation of what he saw in the Bahamas illustrates a point I’ve tried to make many times.

My family and I spent a number of years at the other end of Texas, in Beaumont, which is about an hour’s drive from Lake Charles, La., where riverboat gambling has been active for years. We haven’t been back there in quite a long time, but I remember distinctly the sight of the gambling boats moored on the Calcasieu River, just blocks from decimated neighborhoods. What I saw was little economic ripple from the riverboats. Downtown “Lake Chuck” didn’t have much to commend it to visitors.

And we ought to have the same concerns in Texas. Gambling – and I refuse to call it “gaming” – preys on people’s weakness. That’s why I dislike the lottery. I’m just not sure that casino gambling is going to be the panacea that some of its proponents – such as John Montford – say it is.

It’ll make money for casino owners … but who else?

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