Seniors Gambling for Toilet Paper? Thank Heavens the Government Is Here to Stop It!

Who knows what sort of slippery slope could result?


Double-ply? That bumps it up to a felony.
Credit: Dean Hochman / photo on flickr

Consider this just another version of the regular "Officials Force Kids to Shut Down Lemonade Stand" story coming from other end of the life experiences spectrum. Periodically government officials step in to screw with the older folks in small communities for the crime of having fun in unapproved fashions. Typically this means low-stakes casual gambling. How low? This low:

Two or three days a week, 88-year-old Berylda Wilson and her friends get together to play euchre at the Delaware County Senior Citizens Center.

But because they pay a couple of bucks to play and take home prizes like packs of cookies or toilet paper, they're breaking Indiana law — and state officials have ordered an end to the illegal gambling.

The Indiana Gaming Commission last week contacted officials of the senior center — where the most common regular activities, besides euchre, include bridge and line dancing — and told them the pay-for-play must stop.

This was in Muncie, Indiana, reported by The Star Press. It is obvious that nobody is in this for the prizes. The center itself takes in about $30 from three hours of play per session. But it's not government permitted gambling! It must be stopped. If these folks want to gamble legally they should do it the right way, by going to a facility fully authorized by the friendly government there to protect us all.

Hey! Wouldn't you know it? Hoosier Park, a race track and casino, is in nearby Anderson, just 30 minutes away! They provide hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to the state and the county, but we assure you there's absolutely no relationship between this petty enforcement of gambling laws against a tiny group of elderly people and an inherently corrupt system of government-granted gaming monopolies. We just want to make sure that none of these elderly folks are being cheated out door prizes because a government-approved representative is not keeping an eye on them. And a bonus: REO Speedwagon!

These stories happen as frequently as those lemonade stand busts. There's often a similar burst of outrage, but it fades pretty quickly. The heavy hand of government gambling protectionism can also interfere with community service groups attempting to raise money for charity. Here, for example, is a list of all the absurd hoops a Rotary Club in California has to jump through to have a raffle that complies with state law.

In other Reason coverage, here's Jacob Sullum noting a similar crackdown on petty gambling games played by the elderly in Washington state. And stepping all over everybody's fun, a poorly written anti-gambling ordinance in Florida has threatened the future of claw machines and any sort of redemption game there.