“It’s for the Kids!”
By: Meredith Burnett
With our commitment to strengthening the family and to protecting its more vulnerable members, we might wonder how members of the American Solidarity Party in Maryland ought to approach our upcoming referendum, which will determine the legal status of sports betting in our state. What might seem like a clear choice for those whose goal is to “create a more pro-family culture” becomes murkier when we consider that those proposing a change to current legislation are suggesting that tax revenues would be used for education. Given the current health crisis, and the increased reliance on technology to bridge the gap between student and instructor, additional funds certainly would be beneficial at this juncture. That said, the “it’s for the kids” argument in favor of legalizing sports betting may merely be a case of “muddying the waters to make them look deep,” as the saying goes.
The principle of never doing evil so that good may come of it is central to Christian ethics, finding its basis in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans (Romans 3:8). This principle can and should be extended to include never encouraging evil that good may come. When we consider that gambling becomes one of those monetized vices that generates the bulk of its income (by some estimates well over fifty percent) from the small fraction (two to three percent) of those who become addicted to it, we should not be surprised to learn that advertising for gambling is often specifically designed to target and create gambling addicts. Encouraging “problem gambling” and addiction threatens families and children by encouraging problem gamblers to risk the family homes of some of the very children that this legislation is supposed to be “helping.” Most of the excess revenue that the educational system would gain by the legalization of sports gambling would be acquired by taking advantage of the vulnerable—both the problem gamblers themselves and their families. “Wagering is a tax on stupidity,” my grandfather used to say. Whether or not that is always the case, it is always true that revenue from betting directly impoverishes those who struggle to make good decisions with their money and those in their care.
When I was a child, my mother used to bemoan the fact that the clerk at the corner store frequently asked his middle-aged male customers if they wanted a lottery ticket. “Why doesn’t he ask them if their wives need some milk or some eggs back at home?” she would fume, watching the customers ahead of her throw their money away. Indeed, what a more wholesome way for a sales clerk to generate a little extra income! No doubt, the schools could benefit from additional funding, especially over the next few years. But the legalization of sports betting is not a child-friendly way to achieve this end!
Maryland voters have some important decisions to make in the next week. It is tempting to “think big” and just focus on the presidential race and our congressional candidates. However, it is arguably with attention to state policy that we have the greatest ability to shape our lives and that of those around us. And so, we must, without hesitation, vote “No” to the legalization of sports betting in our beloved state.