Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Gambling Game in Indiana is Rigged

HARBESON: More than a simple game

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Last week’s news about the high-profile raid on an alleged illegal gambling ring in Jeffersonville was a jackpot of examples showing the hypocrisy and confusion caused when government gets involved in vices.

When U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett said the eight people charged were allegedly “handling thousands and thousands of dollars a day in wagers,” the message was clear — these guys were in trouble because lots of money was moving around without the government skimming off a portion of the profits.

The government doesn’t care much about gambling as long as they get their cut. We know this because “thousands and thousands of dollars a day in wagers” are also handled just a few dice throws down the river and Hogsett has absolutely nothing to say about the people running that gambling operation.

It’s confusing at first to realize that you can sit on a boat in Harrison County and make bets with a guy rolling a marble and both of you can still be considered to be fine upstanding citizens. But if you go sit on a car in a certain Jeffersonville auto shop and make bets with a guy about the Andretti curse, it can be a criminal act.

The wagers that happen on the boat are not crimes because those transactions are government-approved. The people who run that gambling business dutifully hand over some of the profits they make from creating a venue filled with crisp cards and shiny, clanging machines that attract people who want to engage in this vice.

It’s a great deal for the government when corporations do most of the work and concentrate gambling activities in one convenient easy-to-tax gambling shop. The corporation is of course happy to pay off the government in return for the protection from competition.

Considering what a grand deal it is for government to legalize and tax gambling you might wonder why they haven’t legalized and taxed all forms of gambling. Well, besides the fact that they are helping the current legal gambling venues maintain their little monopolies, perhaps it’s because there is money to be made on both sides of the vice game.

Let’s go back to the press conference about the Jeffersonville gambling operation for illustration. Larry Rollins, the director of the Gaming Control Division for the Indiana Gaming Commission, said his group started investigating the guys involved in the Jeffersonville operation two years ago.

Then when it was discovered that the gambling operation crossed state lines, this meant even more crimes were committed as a result of government prohibitions on gambling, and the FBI was brought into the investigation. For 18 months, employees from all layers of government worked on this investigation. Finally, when it came time to raid the Jeffersonville properties, local, state and federal law enforcement all participated.

That’s a lot of people being paid to work as a direct result of the government prohibition on certain types of gambling.

Now that indictments have been made, those employed by the government court system will also get into the game. And if any of the accused men are found guilty and sentenced to prison for breaking laws prohibiting gambling, you will pay even more people to keep them in a cage so that “society” can punish them.

You can see how the entire cost of enforcement and punishment means that a lot of people can profit simply because the government has the ability to write words down on paper and declare that people who are handling wagers about Peyton Manning’s next game are criminals.

Of course the government officials who get paid to enforce these prohibitions are quick to explain that it’s not all that innocent. They work hard to ante up the fear by telling the public that illegal gambling connects to other crimes and attracts dangerous people. They imply strong odds that innocent law-abiding citizens could be harmed.

No one who profits from government prohibition mentions that the game is rigged from the start because it’s the prohibition itself that helps create those problems. And odds are, they never will.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson never counts her money while she’s sitting at the table. Mostly because she never has any left.

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