We're Living in a Different World

“We are living in a different world.”  Yep, that just about sums it up.

This was a statement made by Delegate Sickles during a panel discussion on gambling at the Virginia Press Association last week. His comment was part of an effort to explain how certain gambling activities that used to be frowned upon by society for decades are now tolerated and even considered as normal entertainment to many. 

While Delegate Sickles admitted that he himself does not gamble, and finds no interest in this particular activity, he felt compelled to introduce a bill to legalize sports betting in Virginia for those who do find it entertaining, and all because, apparently, we just live in a different kind of world now.

Let me share some of the other comments offered by the panelists that did seem to lend merit to this idea that “we are living in a different world.”

  • “If we legalize gambling, researchers can begin to learn more than they do now [about gambling].” (No, this was not Nancy Pelosi.)

  • “There is always going to be negative impacts associated with gambling,” but we should still pass sports betting. 

  • “We need to legalize sports betting to capture the illegal wagers and keep revenues in Virginia.”   

  • “We have a program that allows problem gamblers to self-impose a ban on themselves, whereby a person who fears he or she is gambling uncontrollably can ask to be “banned” from the gambling floor.” 

These bewildering comments offered by the panelists at the VPA conference sounded like something from a parallel universe.

Only in this world can someone say ‘let’s expand gambling to give researchers the opportunity to study it more, and to learn more about its negative impacts.’ 

Only in this world can someone suggest that we should expand gambling in Virginia despite the fact that casino gambling and sports betting are accompanied by a wide range of social problems like addiction, bankruptcy, crime, and human sex trafficking. 

Only in this world does one say that we should legalize sports betting because it will somehow cause people currently finding unregulated and untaxed ways to make sports wagers to begin making legal wagers that are regulated and taxed. 

And only in this world can an off-track betting establishment tell us they are concerned about problem gambling (with a straight face) and that they are attempting to correct the issue by offering a program in which the problem gambler asks to be banned from betting floor.

By contrast, The Family Foundation offered several important facts about gambling during that same panel discussion. First, gambling is regressive, in that it extracts money from the people who can least afford it. Second, gambling can have a destructive impact on marriages and families, as problem gambling leads to financial stresses, divorce, and in some cases suicide attempts. Third, casinos and sports betting establishments will drive up bankruptcies, reduce property values, and hurt local economies, because people will spend more money at these places instead of the local shops and restaurants. And fourth, there will be at least a 10 percent increase in crime, from larceny and robbery, to human trafficking. The FBI has been monitoring human trafficking along the I-81 corridor, which is where the proposed Bristol casino would be developed.

Can’t we just say that there are enough negative outcomes associated with gambling to not legalize casinos and sports betting?  Shouldn’t Virginia be trying to address all of the social ills associated with gambling rather than attempting to legalize the very thing that will cause them to escalate even further?

Of course not, because we are living in a different world in which we have to pass more government sponsored gambling in order to learn more about its harmful effects. In this world government is presumed to be omniscient, so we are to just trust it to always act in accordance with our best interests.

Yes, we are living in a different world, alright. But you don’t have to only look at comments made by proponents of gambling to prove that point. There is evidence all around us. Consider only a few of the recent headlines:

Is this the kind of world you want to live in? I imagine you don’t, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

Even if bad policies are passed, we still have the opportunity to change the world around us. We can disciple that young woman to choose life for her unborn child rather than getting an abortion. We can invest time into a young person’s life and help them realize that what brings true joy and happiness is God, not changing their bodies or going by different pronouns. And we can help our neighbors struggling with gambling addictions find more rewarding ways to build financial stability and to find entertainment.

It is important to know that the people, not the government, determine the type of world we live in.