The Washington State legislature is proposing to widen the scope of legalized gambling in this state by making telephone betting on horse races legal. At least one on the Seattle Times editorial staff thinks this is a bad idea; here's my opinion:
I fail to see the point of objections to increasing the scope of gambling legally sanctioned in Washington State, or anywhere else for that matter.
Gambling is a consensual activity participated in by adults. Prohibition and limitation of gambling (or any other consensual activity by adults) is motivated by moral judgements by those who would save people from themselves; they have no place in a free society.
Truly, many gamblers are compulsive and would be wise to refrain from the activity, but ultimately the responsibility for their actions rests with the individuals, not with government.
Washington State enjoys the company of virtually all other state governments in a long history of straddling the fence on consensual "crimes". For decades it held the duplicitous position of blanketly denying gamblers the right to engage in their consensual activity of choice, while holding a monopoly on the distribution of "hard" alcohol, in order to directly (and solely) benefit from the consensual activity of another group.
I submit that the social repercussions of alcohol use far outweigh those of gambling- "problem gambling" or otherwise.
Laws limiting the rights of adults to engage in activites which cause no harm to others or their property, or infringe upon others' rights, diminish freedom for all. I may not condone your activity, but until it adversely affects me, I defend your right to engage in it.
Constitutional and moral arguments aside, the proliferation of casinos in our state since the decriminalization of gambling is proof that the industry has growth potential. In an economic climate as bad as ours, with the budget crisis faced by our state, we would be wise to keep our moral posturing to ourselves and foster that growth.
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