Friday, April 26, 2013

Gambling as a Fiscal Pillar of Society

Being from a country whose profound influence on the norms of international governance and jurisprudence would have been much less likely if the Counter-Reformation had succeeded on its territory, I am rarely impressed by the pronouncements of the Roman Catholic Church. However an important recent exception is a pastoral letter from their Archbishop of Toronto on the subject of the political drive to place a large gambling casino on his city's scenic lake shore:"Gambling is inherently based on illusion - on promoting the fantasy, particularly attractive to the most vulnerable and most desperate, that it is an easy way to provide a quick solution to the financial problems that they face".

Local politicians and captains of entertainment have bandied together to try to convince the local citizenry that a giant complex of this type bulls-eye in Canada's largest city is a dream come true. To the dubious morality of governments relying ever more heavily on lottery takings to function is now to be added jobs created in construction and to produce tax revenue from a greatly extended variety of hands-on options for the risk-addicted to lose money. One does not have to be a Bible literalist to see this as a further extension into the modern Sodom and Gomorrah of Government fund-raising. The now North America-wide phenomenon of the reserved land of aboriginal peoples being exempt from local rules prohibiting casinos, so that young natives can be trained up as croupiers and barmen, is to be extended to our non-indigenous big city population, as if it is somehow a worthy and fulfilling career choice!

Helping those who often have serious impulse control and lifestyle management issues to part with their earnings in a situation where real reward for doing so has of necessity to be rare, seems hardly in the public interest. Yet we taxpayers tolerate it because it allows governments to spend more than we are prepared to give them, and is generally out of sight (native casinos on reserves) or can easily be overlooked (lottery ticket sales outlets). However this new source of revenues would be impossible to ignore, given its likely impact on the composition of Downtown tourism and facilities, and so our ratepayers are starting to voice their disquiet. In this dissension, the issue of the basic morality of the 'entertainment' too often plays a poor second fiddle to the NIMBY concern of Toronto residents. The Archbishop is to be congratulated for bringing out into the light the ethical and spiritual dimensions of state-sponsored gambling.

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