Online Gambling

Reason Writers Around Town: Radley Balko Continues His Gambling Debate at the Economist Online


The Economist's online debate on legalized gambling continues today, as Reason Senior Editor Radley Balko and Les Bernal of Stop Predatory Gambling post their rebuttals. From Balko's rebuttal:

Les Bernal's introductory argument borrows a bit of the right's moral rectitude and the left's paternalism, and ends with an odd attempt to tie his own position to patriotism and civic virtue. What it lacks is any data showing gambling to be a drag on the general social welfare, much less one severe enough to merit government prohibition—and all the expense, violence and infringements on civil liberties that accompany it.

And from Bernal's:

How does a seventh-grade English teacher who appears as "a short, middle-aged woman, wearing a heavy winter coat and scarf" suddenly become a bank robber? Has such a bank robber ever before existed?

The government programme of casinos and lotteries is based on addicted or heavily indebted citizens just like this woman.

Be sure to vote for the argument you find more persuasive!

NEXT: Born in Flames Meets Gandhi

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40 responses to “Reason Writers Around Town: Radley Balko Continues His Gambling Debate at the Economist Online

  1. The government’s job is to protect people from their own stupidity, so it is the government’s job to keep glambling illegal.

    (Sorry, I was channeling MNG)

    1. Trolling by proxy

  2. Gambling is in that class of things that are dumb but not the government’s problem.

    All banning any of them does is provide income to organized criminals.

  3. That poll is pretty depressing. The economist is supposed to be one of the more classically liberal publications and yet 50% of their visitors think that gambling should be illegal.

    1. I know. I’d been reading the Economist for a decade or so but cannot take it anymore. What I’m trying to say is that the content reflects the audience.

      1. Still out of the big publications the Economist is usually the best. I don’t agree with them on everything (gun control mainly).

        But overall, they follow a classic liberal vibe.

    2. If you really want to depress yourself, read the comments.

      1. They’re not all bad…

  4. Lucifer looks like a great libertarian mascot in that pic, in the way a monocled, top-hatted gent would as well.

    It must be the moustache, but I feel like the cards help too.

    1. No no. He would only make a good libertarian mascot if he had five Kings. Y’know, because libertarians want a society with no rules where cheaters always win.

      1. Hey!

  5. The economist is supposed to be one of the more classically liberal publications

    It is. But there’s a curve. Steep one.

    The print world’s endumbening trend is universal, but The Economist in particular has gone shockingly downhill. Casualty in the “BUUUUUUUSH!” wars. It self-lobotomized. Now it’s USA Weekend for rich white people (just think of the politicians it covers as upscale consumer goods).

  6. Non-Balko’s argument is an anecdotal appeal to emotion – a story about a teacher who had to try and rob banks to pay her gambling debts. I don’t know how someone on that site could vote for that to be the better argument regarding whether gambling should be legal or not.

    1. But the poor middle-aged woman had to steal money because the casinos got her addicted to gambling! How could anyone support legalizing gambling when things like that happen all the time?

      In all seriousness, it worries me that the poll has them tied. Although this post seems to have boosted Balko; not an hour ago it was 47-53. Emotional appeals are okay as a rhetorical tool used in moderation, but as any basic speech class teaches, it’s not the basis for a good argument.

      1. But, but…TEH CHILDRUNZ!

  7. The government Obama’s programme of casinos and lotteries is based on addicted or heavily indebted citizens just like this woman. Period.


  8. Gambling already is legal – for the chosen few. It’s legal in Nevada of course. But it’s also legal in a number of other states – if you happen to have some Native American ancestry or happen to be one of the politically connected ( and rich enough to pay the obiligatory shakedown taxes and bribes) awarded a casino or other gambling license in some cities. It’s also apparently legal for governments to run gambling operations in the form of lotteries while prohibiting private citizens from doing the same.

    So it’s not a question of whether it should be legal but a question of whether the current corrupt, unconstitutional and discriminatory gambling racket should be changed so that all have equal gambling rights.

    1. I was born in the US (as were my parents, and their parents, and their parents…), so I always list myself as “Native American”, when such information is requested.

      1. I’ve always said “native American” casinos are Sitting Bull’s and Geronimo’s revenge….

      2. As do I

    2. The stock market has become the largest gambling casino on the planet…eveyone’s welcome there…of course, only the chosen few seem to profit, but that’s a different discussion.

      1. The chosen few?

        You mean those smart enough to, for example, park their money in low-fee index funds for a long period ot time?

        There are plenty of ways to make money int he stock market, and only a few ways to lose. And yet….

        1. Apparently 10 years isn’t long enough.

          I bought into the buy and hold and dollar cost averaging BS emanating from Wall Street until the last three years (even after the bounce back) wiped out my lifetime’s worth of earnings.

          So now what do I do? I don’t know. Frankly, I’m still shell-shocked.

          1. Nope. 30 works pretty well.

            How does -1.67% wipe out a lifetime’s worth of earnings?

            1. As you may have noticed, in the 34 years since it was founded in 1976, it is up 10.1% annually.

              1. Which means its about 32x as big as 1976.

              2. Sure…and if it was founded in 1972 instead?

                Even with a 30 year window, it’s all a matter of market timing…which means chance.

                1. No, it means that you have to pay attention to your investments.

                  Life entails risk, inflation risk, market risk death risk.

                  Buy and hold is a sucker strategy invented by people selling mutual funds.

                  1. Frequent churning of investments is a sucker strategy of brokers trying to earn commissions.

                    Buying and holding low cost broadly diversified mutual funds is anything but a sucker’s bet.

                    1. I didn’t say anything about frequent. Using the daily or weekly charts is probably more than fine.

                      For example around June 2008 I started recommending to reduce exposure to stocks.

                      Buying and holding has been a sucker bet for the last 10 years, and will probably remaind one for the next 5.

                      Whereas active managment focused on absolute returns (NOT matching the market) can do very well.

                      For example, compare using Dow Theory for trading with buy and hold. If I remember the number right, buy and hold off an indial $100 investment in 1897 or so would get you $37,000 or so.

                      Using Dow Theory and doing long and short you would have like 1.5m

                      And I think 100 years is long enough to be statistically signgicant.

                      you can’t judge returns based just on the longest bull market in history. The 1990’s ain’t coming back.

          2. I’m really considering implementing my own “barbell” with one of my old 401k’s:

            Withdraw all the money. Eat the penalty. Put half down on my mortgage. Buy physical metal with the other half and bury it the back yard. Seriously. Half of this strategy will be pretty bad, but not all that bad, but the other half of it will make me a retroactive genius in 10 years, IMO.

            1. You can buy physical metal with a 401k without paying the penalty (although I do think it has to stay in a lockbox).

              And while paying down debt is pretty much always a good stategy, I don’t think raiding your 401k to do so usually is.

              If you really wanted some money out of your 401k you could do a 401k loan, so at least you are paying interest to yourself.

              Aside from that, I would suggest building up a short treasury position over the next year or two, and then later going long energy/commodity companies after the big correction.

        2. ‘The chosen few’ was in reference to the comment by Dave above.

          Whether you’re actually smart to have money in low-fee index funds, dividend paying stocks, ETFs or any other piece of paper is something time will tell I suppose.

  9. Here’s a summary:

    Balko: Sure, there are a few anecdotes about people getting addicted, but you have no eivdence of a systemic problem.

    Bernal: Here, have another anecdote.

    Does that about sum it up?

    1. You missed

      Half the readers: I believe anecdotal evidence over real facts! HURR! DURR! Oops, I drooled on myself. Anyone got a napkin?

  10. Anybody want to bet that this Bernal douche wins? I’m laying 4-1 . . .

    1. My gang of killers and mercs are on our way, predator.

  11. I just read the so-called “expert” commentary from the MIT professor. It concludes with.

    Given how little we know about the precise ways that machine gambling harms, it is not yet clear whether any of these measures will actually work. What is clear is the need for sensible, unbiased regulation of this particular gambling product, and for investment in research to better understand its effects on users.

    So we don’t know if gambling actually harms people, but we need to do something anyway. Oh, and we need to invest in more research give you money. Fuck. I didn’t realize you could be a blithering idiot and get tenure at MIT.

    1. “Fuck. I didn’t realize you could be a blithering idiot and get tenure at MIT.”

      I’m pretty sure that’s actually a requirment for most unviersity posts.

  12. I just love to see yet another supposedly intelligent person misuse a word like freedom so completely.

    Also, I think that the fact that the poll results are so close is simply because most people didn’t read the damn arguments.

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