Governor Ed Rendell has made a statement to politicians all across the US with his proposal to legalize video poker gambling in Pennsylvania. The message is simple, stop pretending that gambling does not already exist, instead, use it to the state’s advantage and help people with gambling problems at the same time.
“For years gambling laws have been hard to pass because politicians blindly claim that gambling does not exist in the states they govern. (Governor) Rendell’s proposal shows that there are actually politicians out there who do have a hand on the pulse of their citizens,” said legal analyst Terry Hruntlem.
What Rendell is proposing is taking the illegal activity that is taking place in bars and taverns across Pennsylvania, and legalizing and regulating the industry so that the state can benefit financially.
Now, of course, this does not work in all situations. Politicians should not be lining up to legalize drugs and other illegal activity that happens on a daily basis, but in the gambling arena, government regulation actually would help many of the problems associated with its existence.
If Rendell’s plan is passed, it would certainly come with a strict set of guidelines for operators of the video gambling machines. In addition, one of the regulations could have something to do with problem gambling detection and treatment awareness.
“The more that politicians accept that gambling is part of the society in the US, the quicker the country can move towards helping people who abuse the recreational activity. With every state that legalizes a form of gambling comes additional treatment centers and public awareness of the problems related to gambling,” said counselor Dorothy Freidman.
It is true that Rendell does not see the big picture. All he sees currently is the billions of dollars that can be generated from the industry. That does not mean, however, that good cannot come from areas outside his vision.
In some states, law enforcement agencies are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to try and police illegal gambling activity. As previously reported here, that is money that could go towards helping problem gamblers instead of criminalizing them.
“As the governor said (tavern gambling) has been going on in Pennsylvania for many, many, years. The issue right now is that it’s totally unregulated,” said Amy Christie, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Tavern Association.
Opposition to this new proposal from Rendell could come from casinos operating legally in the state. With regulation of the tavern, video poker machines would come more competition. They are waiting, however, to see how a potential Bill is written before they make a public statement.