Sunday, August 05, 2007

Make it illegal: Watch the black market expand

Here's an example of irrationally punitive criminal justice policies actually making us less safe.

According to the Houston Chronicle ("Law enforcement losing big on local gambling," Aug. 5), there are 300-400 game rooms operating allegedly illegal gambling operations in Houston! That's really a big number of underground gaming and party rooms, don't you think? It's like a revival of the whole speakeasy concept from prohibition days, only this time based on prohibition of gambling.

Police target the businesses for petty code violations instead of for illegal gambling because they must prove the entity is not just providing entertainment. I'd think they could resolve that by just interviewing folks as they come out, but officers told the reporter it requires someone to go undercover to make a case.

The irony to me: Anyone can drive up to Shreveport or I'm sure lots of other places in Louisiana and drop quarters into slot machines until the cows come home. Who cares?

Police say they do because violent criminals target game rooms where "operators handle large amounts of cash and most patrons are female or elderly." But I think there's another reason game rooms are targeted: Because they're illegal. "In the past year, sheriff's deputies responded to 12 robberies and four shootings — three of them fatal — at gaming rooms," but anecdotal evidence indicates most crimes at gaming rooms are never reported, say police.

By comparison, there's hardly anyplace safer in America than inside a casino, there's so much security at most of them. But because Texas outlawed these machines for gambling purposes, a black market formed. So what should be a safe, consensual business relationship for gamblers becomes a dangerous and shady one.

On the other hand, if you want to buy a state-funded lottery ticket, Texas not only condones but avidly encourages people to scratch their gambling itch through expensive ad campaigns. Not only is the hypocrisy mind-boggling, but I bet the eight liners pay off better.


nurit said...

We do have some interesting anomalies here is Texas, do we not? The self-appointed moral police must legislate for the ignorant masses. Why is it we cannot see the need to allow all the people to make their own decisions, good or bad? There are logical consequences to every choice we can lose your money if you gamble! I'm sure the argument then goes to the idea that those who become destitute by their foibles become a burden on the people so we must practice prevention.

Anonymous said...

There are so many better ways to spend scarce public resources. The prevention needed is to outlaw waste in public policy decisions.

We could start by treating Hepitatis - C in the jails and prisons. At some point this great capitalist society of ours forgot that human life is more important than money.

Anonymous said...

I thought the payoffs Jack provided would finally wise up our Lege and at least put gambling on the voting ballot. I failed to realize just how many members of our Lege were "involved". Money talks and BS walks in Austin as well as Washington D.C.

Krusty said...

The prohibition gives the police yet another cover story for putting poor people in jail, as the rich never go to jail, even if they gamble and lose billions in other people's money. The prohibition also gives the police a new income stream -- payoffs to stay in business. Cops will have an easier time making gambling arrests thanks to the operators who are paying them protection money happily snitching on their business rivals. This racket ensures that gambling operators who do not corrupt cops are the only ones who will go to jail.

JT Barrie said...

Here's an ironic argument one might make to ban gambling. Since they do pay off better than government run gambling the number of short term winners is much higher- thus encouraging addiction. One could argue that if you legalize drugs and they become less toxic, more people would use them with less short-term effects and become addicted. Once they are addicted the long-term effects kick in with heart problems and lung problems that would rival those of cigarettes and alcohol. Perversely, the banners would argue that these problems related to sedentary, hedonistic lifestyles would be in ADDITION to those involving cigarettes and alcohol. Hmm.... must be a lot of nonsmoker teetotalling cokeheads out there.