Gambling won’t fix our problems
When a state spends more than it receives in revenue, legislators can reduce spending or increase revenue. Most people in New Hampshire oppose higher taxes and believe, as I do, that Concord must balance its budget by reducing its spending, as families throughout the state have been forced to cut their budgets in these difficult times. Raising taxes will prolong the economic downturn, but at least legislators who argue for higher taxes can’t pretend they are not increasing the burden on taxpayers, to whom they will be accountable in the next election.There are some who believe there is an easier way to do hard things: just refuse to do them. That’s what too many legislators in Concord are proposing to do by supporting legislation to open racetrack slot machines and casino gambling in New Hampshire. They aren’t the first politicians to avoid difficult choices by offering their constituents a free lunch, but they’re no more convincing than their predecessors.Contrary to their assurances, gaming will impose higher social and economic costs on the people of New Hampshire than it will raise in reliable revenue for the government. Casinos aren’t the answer. They won’t stimulate economic growth or create jobs outside the casinos. The money spent in towns that have a casino will be spent in the casino, and much of it by people who can’t afford to lose it. Gambling addiction is twice as prevalent among lower-income families than among higher-income ones, and slot machines, despite the gaming industry’s attempts to market them as harmless entertainment, are the most addictive form of gambling of all.Gambling destroys local economies. As more money is spent on gambling, less money is spent on New Hampshire businesses that offer worthwhile products and services.Gambling destroys lives. It causes increases in crime, divorce, domestic violence, child abuse, bankruptcy, loss of workplace productivity and other ills, and sticks taxpayers with higher costs for social services. Gambling breeds government corruption. Once the gaming industry has a foothold in a state, even if it is restricted, it will soon lobby to expand their operations here as competition from casinos in neighboring states increases. As we have seen in other states that have legalized gambling, there are people in the industry who aren’t above bribing public officials to get the support they need to expand their operations. As more casinos open in neighboring states, gaming revenues would decrease here, and the costs it creates for New Hampshire governments, businesses and families would grow greater. The only people who stand to gain anything from this legislation are the casino operators themselves and the many lobbyists they are lavishing money on – over $150,000 and rising — to get the legislation passed. The most valuable thing New Hampshire possesses is its character. We’re sensible, responsible, honest, fair-minded, decent people. And we know there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Let’s make sure the politicians in Concord know that, too. Fred Tausch is founder of NH Steward for Prosperity, Concord.