Kentucky lawmakers have had a strange love affair with expanding gambling. Every year, they gather and seem to get a little bit closer to handing a brand new revenue source to the various race tracks around the commonwealth.
The chief argument against expanded gambling in Kentucky seems to be that it will have some corrosive impact on the culture. Whether or not that’s true, it’s important to understand that freedom can be rather messy. People sometimes fail to take advantage of the upside of basic liberties. People sometimes make bad choices. Expanded gambling offers people a chance to blow their whole paychecks on the turn of a wheel, a toss of the dice or the dealing of cards. And some poor souls choose that path. These facts should not be taken as an argument against freedom. Instead they’re an argument for people to make better choices on behalf of their families.
The side that tends to favor expanded gambling makes the point that Kentucky’s government needs the money. Budgets are tight, after all, and revenues from gambling will be the state budget elixir. There are so many things the government does that may have to be sacrificed if Kentucky doesn’t approve a tax on those who choose to gamble said paychecks for the chance at a better tomorrow.
Unfortunately, both sides of this debate are horribly misguided. Yes, you can lose your family’s source of sustenance on a roll of the dice. So what? It’s your job as an adult to make the right choices with your hard-earned income. Bright lights and the promise of big wins doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility to do right by yourself and those who depend on you.
And yes, expanding gambling could provide additional revenues to the government. So what? The problem with Kentucky’s government isn’t that revenues are lacking, it’s that Kentucky’s government is involved in too many activities that ought to be left to the voluntary sector. Should the government own a dozen or more state parks, golf courses or industrial parks? Should the government really be in the business of subsidizing entertainment venues in Lexington, Louisville, Corbin or Pikeville? Should the government be picking winners and losers with special “tax incentives” that favor some businesses over others?
Before you pick a side in the fight over expanded gambling in Kentucky, ask yourself this: Have Kentucky’s lawmakers been good stewards of your tax dollars thus far? Are there programs that lawmakers support that might ought to be cut in lieu of seizing a larger share of taxpayers’ earnings? Will a new tax really help lawmakers make ends meet?
I hope you’ll agree with me that giving lawmakers control over a bigger chunk of Kentucky’s economy is a bad bet.