We're Turning America into a Giant Casino
Robert B. Reich
Anyone who says you can get rich through gambling is a fool or a knave. Multiply the size of the prize by your chance of winning it and you'll always get a number far lower than what you put into the pot. The only sure winners are the organizers -- casino owners, state lotteries and con artists of all kinds.
Yet America is now opening the floodgates to organized gambling.
In December, the
That decision is about to create a boom in online gambling.
Meanwhile, states are increasingly dependent on revenues from casinos, lotteries and the "Mega Millions" game (in which 42 states pool their grand prize) to partly refill state coffers.
Given who plays, this is one of the most regressive taxes in the nation. In the most recent Mega Millions game -- whose winning tickets were drawn two weeks ago and whose jackpot rose to
Why should governments use taxpayer dollars to actively market games to Americans -- many of them low-income and vulnerable to get-rich-quick pitches, who don't know the odds are stacked against them and in favor of the government?
As if all this weren't enough, we now have the "Jumpstart Our Business Startups" or misleadingly named "JOBS" Act, which President Obama signed into law last Thursday. It's almost designed for con artists.
It allows so-called "crowdfunding" by which people whose net worth is less than
Forget the usual investor disclosures or other protections. In the interest of "streamlining" investment in small companies,
Although start-ups under the JOBS Act will have to market themselves through third-party portals approved by the
As it is, the
The JOBS Act was sold to
Start-ups don't create lots of jobs. The assertion they do comes from research by the
Over the last four years, millions of Americans who have lost their jobs have involuntarily made themselves available for contract work, with none of the security or benefits of a full-time salaried employee. To assume they're all start-up businesses, and conclude from this that start-ups are generating millions of jobs, is a wild stretch.
I'm all in favor of more entrepreneurship, and it's good to give investors another way to participate in emerging companies. But the so-called JOBS Act doesn't do nearly enough to protect the vulnerable.
America's capital market is already a casino. Millions of Americans lost their shirts in the wake of the crash of 2008, after having gotten mortgages from fast-talking bank lenders who assured them home prices would continue to rise and who didn't disclose the fine print. They were conned.
Haven't we learned a lesson? In whatever form it comes, gambling is a scam. Regardless of whether it's peddled as a sure-thing investment opportunity, a state lottery, a virtual online gambling casino or the real thing, the house always wins.
Organized gambling is OK if you know what you're doing. Some people like the thrill, even when they know the odds are stacked against them.
But get-rich-quick schemes prey upon people who are particularly vulnerable -- who assume they can't make it big any other way, who often find it hardest to assess the odds, and whose families can least afford to lose the money.
Yet step by step we're turning America into a giant casino.
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We're Turning America into a Giant Casino | Politics
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