Steve Chapman on the Freedom to Gamble


Online photo JohnSeb / photo on flickr

America is a much freer place than it was a few decades ago, and one way you can tell is that changes once considered unthinkable now occur almost unnoticed. A case in point came when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill to legalize online gambling. Atlantic City casinos, which now offer various games on site, will now be able to provide them to patrons at home or wherever else they have access to a computer. New Jerseyans will be able to play the slots without getting off the couch.

Attitudes that took years to change are not about to turn around. At a casino or a racetrack, you can't be certain of winning any wager. But in the policy arena, writes Steve Chapman, the continued expansion of legal gambling is as close as you can get to a sure thing.

NEXT: Neutering the Sheepdogs

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  1. America is a much freer place than it was a few decades ago…

    Not really, no. Not on balance.

    1. Chapman appears to be suffering from myopic observation syndrome.

      Life is more than merely drug use, homosexuality, and gambling. Outside those three topics we are far less free. As much as I enjoy redeeming my free gambling credits at the local casinos, and respect the rights of others to enjoy a little drugged out homo sex, there’s a lot more important things in life. Like the right to defend myself, or hang on to what I’ve bled, sweat and toiled for.

      Where it really counts we are much less free.

      1. While I agree with the main thrust of your argument, I’m not comfortable with a “hierarchy of rights”. Rights are interdependent aspects of Liberty, like spokes on a cartwheel. The concept of self-ownership encompasses both the right to self-defense as well as the right to choose what chemicals you allow to circulate in your blood, and the right to choose what orifice to insert your penis in.

        1. I understand your point, but I do think that the right to defend oneself (i.e. the Right to Bear Arms) is the right which ultimately enables all other rights. If you cannot defend yourself you cannot protect your other rights.

          1. In order to defend yourself, you need the right of property, that is, “the right to keep arms”.

            1. No you don’t.

              1. Not all of use are masters of Kung-Fu, like you, Elf.

                1. *us

            2. Not necessarily. You might procure arms against the law, and in doing so, you would empower yourself to secure all of your other rights by force.


              I think that makes sense. I think.

              1. You might procure arms against the law

                The semantics of that statement imply that the right to keep and bear arms isn’t a natural and inalienable right.

                1. Against human law, I mean.

                  Like, say Hussein I bans guns, and you’re, like, “I’ma get some fire-urms illegally.” And, like, you get ’em, and, you know, start shooting up stormtroopers ‘n shit.

                  You know what I sayin’?

                2. As I look around the world, it seems pretty darn alienable.

                  Even if you structure your argument such that the right to keep and bear arms is inalienable and keeping and bearing arms is a particular case of property rights, you still don’t need property rights to defend yourself with a gun.

                  1. If you define “right” as “what’s allowed”, then I agree with you; however, I’m using the term “right” as in what can be deduced by reason to be moral behavior or action.

        2. Fair enough. And while I basically agree with you, my comment was directed towards Chapman’s apparent focus on a few limited freedoms which should have never been infringed upon in the first place.

      2. I agree, with one caveat; I grew up in the 1970’s, when it was generally understood that handguns would be banned in just a few years. Even the NRA seemed resigned to it, they just hoped to get it overturned after a few years of failure to drop crime levels. The opening up of a real debate on 2nd Amendment Rights seems to me to have completely blindsided the Gun Control panjandrums. They’re still game, as their latest spasm of bullish*t legislation shows, but I don’t think that in 1975 they ever envisioned a country where the majority of States have Must Issue laws.

    2. “America is a much freer place than it was a few decades ago”

      That caught my eye too. I strongly disagree with this statement. A few decades ago I could cary a bottled water on an aircraft and not be sexually molested for it. A few decades ago I could buy a new car without a Big Brother black box. A few decades ago I could walk into most government buildings in my town without having to go through TSA style harassment.

      1. It’s not necessary to look far before Chapman’s opening statement seems a little bizarre. Maybe he lives in a casino so that’s all he knows. *shrugs*

    3. ding! We are less free.

      1. Screw the bottle water, you used to actually be able to SMOKE a CIGARETTE on an actual AIRPLANE. Imagine that. Flicking your bic, to light your Marlboro on an AIRPLANE? My gosh, why weren’t airliners falling from the skies?

        Now you can’t even smoke in a BAR. A BAR??? Yes, we are much more free today. Certainly.

        1. while I cannot weep for the airline passenger having to go without smoking, the prohibition in bars is just astounding. Even my wife, who is as vehemently anti-smoking as a human being can be, gets that a private business owner ought to be able to determine which legal activities can occur in his establishment.

          1. a private business owner ought to be able to determine which legal activities can occur in his establishment

            Unless he owns an airline?

            1. with a restaurant or bar, I have some discretion in whether or not to patronize, and even before bans, there were separate sections. There was never a non-smoking airline I am aware of.

              Yes, I get the principle is the same re: private ownership, but I’m not losing sleep over someone going without on a two-hour flight.

              1. I’m sure as shit losing sleep over it. If an airline decides it doesn’t want its customers smoking on its aircraft, alright, but not by governmental diktat.

                1. Airlines exist only due to governmental diktat. The air is the King’s Land, we only fly it due to his pleasure.

                  1. The Most Exalted and Serenely Divine God-Emperor of Holy Terra, Barack I Obama the Munificent, thrusts unto you a most sought privilege — the right to fly within his airspace!

                    Such magnanimity and generosity the world of man hath never seen!

                    For God and the Emperor!

                  2. The air is the King’s Land, we only fly it due to his pleasure.

                    I think lift and physics have something to do with it, too. Even the King must obey the laws of physics. 😉

                    1. Even the King must obey the laws of physics. 😉

                      Well, Physics is just applied Math, and the King seems to be doing his best to avoid that.

                2. If an airline decides it doesn’t want its customers smoking on its aircraft, alright, but not by governmental diktat.

                  without govt diktat, airlines do nothing. And to me, it’s an industry in least need of regulation since it has all teh self-motivation in the world to thoroughly monitor itself.

                  1. Do nothing? You mean they won’t actually make those sorts of rules unless they’re compelled to do so by the state?

                    1. by “do nothing,” I mean that airlines can barely breathe without four govt agencies saying it’s okay.

                    2. I’m sure we all love the TSA and the FAA, though. They’re true heroes.

                      Here’s their theme song:


                    3. Yeah, I misunderstood. Sorry.

          2. “while I cannot weep for the airline passenger having to go without smoking”

            How about weeping for all the airline passengers having to go without adequate air-filtering and also without an adequate supply of fresh air? Having to deal with smoke forced the airlines to do a lot more air-handling than they do now and passengers now are exposed to stale, germ laden air every time they fly.

            NOT what the anti-smoking nannies had in mine, I grant. Just what actually HAPPENED.

        2. Smoke a cigarette on a plane? I remember when the stewardesses passed out cigarettes and booze for free! Man, it used to be fun to fly.

          1. I remember when opium was unregulated.

            /The Man With No Name

          2. It also used to be one hell of a lot more expensive to fly.

  2. Thanks to the sequester, this article teaser is all you get.

    1. Yeah, isn’t there supposed to be a link? Or was Chapman unable to maintain his article beyond a few paragraphs?

  3. What I really want to know is what’s going on in the image accompanying this article. Is it some kind of virtual casino where one can participate with other organic gamblers all on the Internet? Looks potentially interesting…

  4. Freer than a few decades ago? I think not.

    *glances nervously at the sky*

  5. OK now that looks liek it might actually work. Well done.

  6. Wrong thread on the article, I guess.

    “America is a much freer place than it was a few decades ago, and one way you can tell is that changes once considered unthinkable now occur almost unnoticed.

    That’s a great nugget of encouragement, but I won’t be exclaiming this sentiment until the state removes itself entirely from the healthcare, education, and energy industries. After that, I want the state to fuck right off out of the manufacturing industries (cars and pharmaceuticals, for instance), and once we’re making that kind of progress, I’ll consider giving a fuck about gambling laws.

    1. Someone mentioned the tracking boxes in cars earlier. What the fuck is this shit? How the fuck does the executive branch have the power to do that?

      1. NHTSA and all that. Just like the FCC, DEA, et al were created by Congress to be under the executive

        1. Somewhere, the 230-year-old corpses of the Patriots are spinning in their graves.

          1. Fuck those dead, white, slaving owning pieces of shit.

            1. Before the flowering of the Enlightenment in the late 18th Century, the abolition of Slavery wasn’t even a concept. Those Dead White Males were part of the first generation of politicians anywhere on the Earth to even CONSIDER doing away with a slave trade that their race and class benefited from.

              No, they didn’t get it right. And consequently we fought the Civil War. But to whatever extent there is no longer a rampant slave trade, that is the work of dead white males, mostly through colonialism. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you something; probably Socialism, AKA Slavery to the State.

              1. Washington freed his slaves and Paine never owned any btw.

                1. My bad, I forgot the tag.

                  1. Damn it, the /sarc tag

    2. once we’re making that kind of progress, I’ll consider giving a fuck about gambling laws.

      Bread and circuses, RPA, bread and circuses.

      1. Bingo! ..bullseye.

  7. Regarding the issue of “are we more free these days”, I am going to come down on the side of “yes”.

    Within the last 50 years (an arbitrary time limit, but I think reasonable for “recent America”) we have seen gay rights recognized; a whole lot of sodomy laws go away; anti-miscegenation laws struck down by the Supreme Court; a lot of civil rights legislation, including destroying the last of Jim Crow laws; the right to an abortion recognized; and Miranda rights enshrined in law. Beyond that, the whole idea of “obscenity” prosecutions seems to be seriously on the wane; drug laws have been a very mixed bag, but we seem to be closer to legalized marijuana than at any point in the last 50 years; and the tide of public opinion seems to have turned against gun control. What else? Let’s see, we got airline deregulation, we got trucking deregulation, the odious “Fairness Doctrine” has been dumped in the trash…and this is all just stuff I’m coming up with off the top of my head!

    Compared to this, stuff like smoking bans in bars are regrettable, but also pretty small potatoes. I think there’s also a big selection effect: you notice the smoking ban now, but you’re not aware of all the stupid minor laws that were in place 50 years ago.

    Oh yeah, and two NYC-local items: pinball was re-legalized in 1976 (yeah, pinball was illegal for almost 50 years here, if you can believe it) and tattoo parlors were re-legalized in 1997.

    1. It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that we’ve gained much in the last 50 years, as you say, but infinitely too much shit is still awful, and a lot of it is getting worse.

    2. really? In the last few years, we have also seen the institutionalizing of things like speech codes, hate speech, and the near-codification of political correctness. We have seen reams of new regulation that not only determine how businesses conduct themselves, but what individual landowners can do with private property.

      We have a de facto tax on gasoline through required blends for specific times of the year, the ethanol sham, and other mechanisms. We are all treated as potential criminals at airports and often, when going into sport stadiums/arenas. Cameras are ubiquitous in the public square, our govt has set aside any pretense of you having privacy, and it’s okay to kill Americans because they might maybe kinda sorta could be conspiring with al-Qaida.

      1. God forgive us for what we’ve done to our inheritance.

    3. LaGuardia banned pinball and he has an airport named after him.


  8. We’ve swapped “bread and circuses” for “weed and gambling” doesn’t that just make freedom ring?

    Meanwhile the Federal Registry is growing by over 80k pages a year. So, no, we are not freer today, we are in fact more enslaved to the federal monster with each ticking of the clock.

  9. “Obama DHS Purchases 2,700 Light-Armored Tanks to Go With Their 1.6 Billion Bullet Stockpile”…..stockpile/

    All to protect your right to gamble I’m sure.

    1. The line about the tanks made me think of Tiananmen Square.

  10. Meanwhile, Americans have bought more than seven million guns since the year began, and that’s just based records from licensed dealers.

    Stock up, homeboys. We can’t let DHS buy up all the ammunition.

  11. Echoing HM’s sentiment above to the question of whether we are more free today than before. The answer is yes and no and maybe/it depends.

    It really depends on what you value and what you are affected by. We don’t have freedom and rights based on principle and laws derived from principle. Instead like everyone else, we have a positive law system and freedoms chopped up into tiny bits and pieces.

    Even with this allowance in gambling, try doing some activity not prescribed or licensed by the state and see how long you last before you go to jail. They’ll probably throw some money laundering and a variety of conspiracy charges at you, just you to make you plea. The same can be said with just about any vice or perceived vice, where you might get some narrow channel of limited freedom.. but that comes with the condition of constant state intervention and supplication to the state.

    Remember, the amount of felonies are constantly increasing, at the state and federal level. Any individual law may not affect you and may be selectively enforced which is why most get passed and never repealed, but the large accumulation of such targeted laws (a symptom of legal positivism btw) means they can find some law, somewhere, interpreted in some way to pin on you.

    1. “Even with this allowance in gambling”

      If I can’t gamble without any interference(taxes, regulation, etc.) from the state I don’t see it as increasing freedom. It’s simply the state attempting to grab a piece of the action in another black market.

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