Saturday, November 3, 2007

Ohio - Don't Bet On It

A law was recently raced through the Ohio legislature on an emergency basis, outlawing what were considered gambling machines in which people could win money. (Just for the record, what other kind are there?) For some reason, there seemed to be a great deal of concern that any form of video poker or slot machines were going to undermine the fabric of society in Ohio (you know, the same way that such devices have done in neighboring states Michigan and Indiana). 

Now this is not to say that it is illegal to gamble in Ohio. No, it is in fact perfectly legal to gamble in this state as long as you do it with THE OHIO LOTTERY COMMISSION. Yes that's right, the state is the only bookie that you are allowed to do business with. Not only can you gamble, but I would be willing to bet that right now there are as many versions of Ohio Lottery scratch-off tickets as there are flavors of ice cream at Ben and Jerry's. Tickets cost anywhere from $1 to $20 each, and surprisingly we all seem to exhibit some level of self-control while taking our chances with them at getting rich. 

And let's not forget the big ones, the original Ohio Lottery (currently at $2.6 million) and the Mega Millions game (currently at $75 million). This is where we are all forced to show some further level of self-restraint, while getting to take our chance at reaching for the real gold ring as we travel on the merry-go-round of life. 

Of course we are told that this is different, because all the "profit" from this particular form of gambling is at least supposedly directed at the schools of the state of Ohio. It appears that even an evil like gambling can be excused if we use the magic words "for the children" when speaking about it. Unfortunately, despite the volume of play done on these games of chance, property taxes across the state continue to go up and district budgets continue to be an issue from a lack of funding.

So it appears to be that the State of Ohio is not afraid of our inability to show self-control with regards to gambling, as long as it is going to a good and worthy cause. They are merely worried that they won't control it and get their percentage of the proceeds. In their hurry and zeal to protect their monopoly on something that they deem dangerous to the public on some level however, they came very close to doing away with bowling, dart, and pool leagues in the State of Ohio (though for some reason, they were right on top of the concept of protecting Bingo). 

Now I have trouble wrapping my head around how a dart or bowling league could represent a serious challenge to the morals of the state's residents, though having just seen "The Music Man" on cable, I can see how the evil things that go on in a pool hall could be a threat. Quite frankly the surprising thing to me is that the state of Ohio did not choose to take on the vicious bingo hall lobby. I guess that they found a mob of angry senior citizens with bingo card markers clutched firmly in hand too daunting a prospect to face.

This effort to prevent or limit gambling is not a new one for the state. Special interest groups in Ohio have been waging war for years to prevent casinos from opening on both the rivers and the Lake (Erie), in spite of the fact that other states have operated such pleasure palaces successfully just down the river, or up the chain of lakes from our fair shores for years. Now I have heard that this is all done to protect us from a organized criminal element who might strong-arm us, cheat us, and steal our money; but the only one that I can think that fits that picture currently is (wait for it) ... The State of Ohio.

This isn't really a big deal for me, as I'm not a big gambler. I believe that I work far too hard for the money I earn to throw it at a things that spin, blink, and makes annoying noises at me (that's what I thought children were for). I simply resent the fact that the state can't seem to keep it's nose out of my business, and is constantly seeking to find new ways to intrude itself. 

Government has invaded enough in my life and that of my fellow citizens, and there seems bent on exhibiting a serious Puritanical streak that seeks to remove any source of amusement from the lives of those governed. Smoking first, and now non-state sponsored gaming. How long will we have to wait before government begins to look at the consumption of alcoholic beverages again (because prohibition worked so well the first time), or maybe the mating rituals of its citizens (sex, for those of you who might be a little obtuse)? In what other areas of our lives will our fire and brimstone preaching state decide that it should make decisions on, in order to protect us from ourselves?

Now just to prove that Ohio is not the only state that's aggravating me where this is concerned, I am equally upset with the state of Michigan, who's annoying commercials about returning to a spirit of play by gambling in Native American casinos has long since earned my ire. 
I have already voiced my displeasure on this subject however, and see no need to re-hash information previously supplied for those too lazy to click on the link listed.

In the long run, I have to wonder as to the wisdom of adopting this position on gaming though. As we all know, states compete with each other for businesses, jobs, and residents. It appears however, that in the competition for the revenue that games and gambling can provide a state (and the casinos in Detroit have earned more than $120 million in tax revenue this year already) that the states of Michigan and Ohio have slightly different philosophies. While Michigan says "Go Out and Play", the state of Ohio responds with: "No Playing Allowed".

1 comment:

kck_kat said...

We have a similar situation in Kansas. Every year for the past 15 years, a legislator or six from Kansas City, KS has proposed a bill in the Kansas Legislature to allow expanded gambling in Kansas. We already have parimutual betting at the horse/dog track. Every year, the Legislature has voted it down asan evil that will destroy our city in a way that even the twister and the Wicked Witch didn't dare do to Oz. Finally, the public tired of the debate and the 15 minute drive to Kansas City, Missouri casinos, and put it to the vote on the ballot. It passed with a deafening blast! Now the Legislature is dragging it's feet to decide where the State-run (hmmmm!) casino will be built. In the meantime, one of the local Indian tribes chose to hot-shot them along by purchasing a church across the street from the Kansas City, KS police station and directly in sight of our good mayor's office (no kidding!) and set up shop (casino) there. Gutsy move! Unfortunately, that same police department/mayor/state went in and busted them, confiscated their slot machines, and took over $500,000 in cash for "safe keeping". Now that the courts have ruled in favor of the Indians, no one can remember where they put the slot machines and money, so I guess it really is safe!! lol God Bless America and thank you for the "Kansas version" of homeland security! I know I, for one, will sleep much better tonight!