ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” article. It is an editorial by the editor.
A recent post by Mike Salisbury on Facebook got me to thinking about one of my most common observations: If you make something easy for people to do, they will. If you don’t, they won’t.
It is striking because this suggests that modern American society would rather have its people gamble than vote.
Salisbury was expressing worry about making sports betting really easy by permitting and advertising for the practice on line. In case you haven’t noticed, there have been many ads on broadcast media beckoning us to place our sports bets, particularly “the big game,” in as simple a way as on our smart phones.
It’s almost like we’re being lured by the notion we will be “in with the in crowd” by just betting in a really handy way. It doesn’t hurt that some of these newly-legal gambling outfits have incentives for our initial participation.
I’ve often contended that if you want people to recycle, you make it easy for them to do through curbside recycling. Conversely, if you want to discourage something like voting, you make it inconvenient and cumbersome; you make the unwashed masses jump through a lot of hoops. Obstacles such as having elections on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. during times in which so many of these folks must be at work. Obstacles in which you have to show up at the polls, in order to vote, even if you don’t have a car or a means of transportation. It’s so bad that when a deadly pandemic hit the U.S. last year, efforts to allow people to vote by mail and avoid risks of exposure were met by resistance and suggestions that they were fraudulent.
Meanwhile, Salisbury’s worries focused on increased chances of people becoming addicted to gambling, an understandable fear. Some ads even include information about hotlines that can be used to get help with said addiction.
When I learned about efforts to establish the Gun Lake Casino more than a decade ago, I did not hesitate to offer what support I could. I opposed the big money businessmen like the late Peter Secchia to stop the Gun Lake Tribe’s ambitions because they wanted that business for themselves and Grand Rapids.
But I candidly told tribal members I wouldn’t spend a penny on any of their games and machines. You might say I’m pro-choice in that I won’t gamble myself, but I won’t stop others from playing these games of chance.
I might draw the line, too late, like Salisbury, in speaking out against making gambling too easy to do. I think gambling should be legal, but regulated to reduce the risks of addiction and the misery that accompanies.
I suppose I feel the same way about marijuana — let it be legal, but regulated. And it is, lots more regulated than gambling.
We must understand, even the most moral among us, that we have long given our blessings to gambling through the stock market, perhaps the biggest game of them all. And very few, if any, will lift a finger against the office pool on NCAA hoops tournaments and regular season NFL games.
But I share Salisbury’s concerns that we may have gone too far in making this personal vice too easy to “get in the game.”
But, as Carole King sang 50 year ago, “It’s too late, baby, now it’s too late.”