By Dave Stancliff
My father lived through the Great Depression and over the years he’s told me interesting stories about those tough times. One was that gambling stayed popular, either in spite of or because of, financial desperation.
“People gambled and went to the movies,” Dad assured me. As far as I can tell people are still going to the movies during our current depression (screw the term recession). It seems all bets are off for the gambling industry in America today.
As more people lose their jobs, the revenues for state lotteries and casinos are dropping. That old notion that gambling is recession proof is being challenged. People don’t feel “lady luck” will be any nicer to them gambling than what she showed them at the workplace.
For an industry that doesn’t create wealth but simply transfers it-mostly from the poor to the already rich-the future is not rosy. Their shaky stocks don’t translate to buying lottery tickets. State governments are scrambling to make up for an average 2 percent dip in lottery revenues in the third quarter compared with last year.
Companies that run casinos saw their stock prices drop by more than 60 percent in 2008, while on the Las Vegas Strip, gambling revenues have fallen nearly 10 percent. Nevada faces a sobering moment about the risk of risk. Not only is its gaming industry suffering, but the state has the highest rate of home foreclosures.
To me it appears the gambling mentality extended to buying homes, on the assumption that prices would always go up. That belief-nationwide- is now as dubious as the pull of a slot machine.
It’s the state lotteries that are particularly pernicious because elected officals, supposedly the guardians of public morality, prey on the most vulnerable to supplement their budgets. Experts say that about 1 in 5 people play the lottery regularly. They are the wrong people however. Those who spend the most on tickets earn less than $12,400 a year, parting with about 9 percent of their income!
There’s some states, like New York, who want to expand their gambling to make up for budget shortfalls. “Get rich” marketing has become more aggressive, trying to hook young people in. I’ve heard that there are some tickets that are infused with smells like chocolate. I guess the buyer can eat them after their numbers don’t deliver them to financial security.
As It Stands, gambling will never be the answer to people’s problems, it will only compound them.