Dave Richards for May 14th…………….
--You may have heard that yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court took an action which some say will ‘open the flood gates’ to sports betting across the nation. You may have heard that this is the beginning of the end for honest sports play. And you may have heard it’s the best thing to happen in years to the sports fan.
Depending on your perspective, all of the above may be true. But I think we’re all hearing the usual exaggerations which predominate whenever there is an unknown. It’s true, there is a lot which is unknown. But here’s what we do know.
The U.S. Supreme Court has declared ‘unconstitutional’ a 25 year-old law which banned, in all states except Nevada, betting on sports games. The reason it gave for that decision is that the law didn’t regulate the gambling in all states except Nevada, it banned it. The court’s opinion was the constitution says if the Federal Government would not regulate it, it was up to each State to regulate it. I remember from Social Studies class in high school that ‘all powers not specifically given to the federal government by the Constitution are given to the States’. The Supreme Court’s job is to interpret the constitution in matters which come before it. In this case, the Court ruled that Congress passed an unconstitutional law.
You may ask, “how could it take 25 years for the Supreme Court to decide this?” Well, it didn’t take that long. It took mostly that long for someone, in this case the Governor of the State of New Jersey, to ask the Supreme Court to rule on the matter.
Now that it has been challenged and struck down, what will happen next? Well, that depends on your perspective. In Nevada, nothing new will happen. In states like New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Mississippi and others, they’ll need to pass quick laws which regulate this type of betting to their states.
A press release received at our radio station from the President of the Rhode Island Senate, Dominick J. Ruggerio, yesterday indicated at least his house in the legislature was not caught by surprise. President Ruggerio said, “In anticipation of this decision, I introduced legislation this year to enable sports betting at the facilities where it has been approved by voters already, Twin River in Lincoln and the new venue being constructed in Tiverton.” Other legislators were quick to support the idea with the same enthusiasm in which an inmate on death row would welcome a reprieve from the Governor. Facing monumental budget issues, they are trying hard to keep their dignity as they reach for the sunglasses to hide their tears of relief. The term “Giddy with Laughter” would not go too far in describing the mood of some legislators at the prospect of being able to spend the millions of new dollars this expansion of gambling will yield.
However, I’m not happy with Rhode Island jumping on the “Sports Betting Boat”. Don’t get me wrong, for the good things which can happen with these changes I am happy. But there is a down-side to all this. No, I’m not a pessimist. Listen, we already have a state budget which is so dependent upon the traditional vices of smoking, drinking, and gambling, that if everyone suddenly ‘got religion’ and gave it up the entire Rhode Island State Government would have the life expectancy of an Ice Cream Cone on the Fourth of July. I’m not eager to see it any more dependent on sin taxes than it is now.
I have nothing against people having fun. But we all know that some people have a hard time knowing when ‘enough is enough’. For these people we have just made life much more perilous. And this doesn’t even consider the extra temptations and pressures this will put on the athletes.
I know I sound like a ‘Debbie Downer’ with this talk. I’m not happy I think this way, and I don’t want to spoil anyone else’s fun. I am just remembering the words of a dear friend who turned out to be a ‘wise old man’. Former Lt. Governor Joe O’Donnell and I used to amuse ourselves debating big and important topics over lunch. Topics like the uselessness of party politics (my position) or the dangers of the expansion of gambling in the state (his position). I have to say that Joe made a great point in his argument against the expansion of gambling which I never forgot. He told me no matter how much gambling we allow we will never have enough money from it because the General Assembly will just spend more. That, he concluded, is no way to run a government.
Joe’s words have been proven true many times since then. Rhode Island first allowed a state lottery “to fund education”. Then it funded everything they needed money for. They have casino gambling now and it’s still not enough money, our deficits have never been bigger. Just over the border to our west we see the State of Connecticut also running terrible deficits despite having two of the largest casinos in this part of the world within their borders. I can only conclude that fixing a budget deficit with gambling money has proven to be as effective as having Curley from The Three Stooges fix your plumbing.
Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision was laudable in its wisdom. I think the Supreme Court justices did their job well. We can only hope and pray the leaders in each state exhibit the same level of wisdom.
You see, I can be a starry-eyed optimist.
--That’s what I think. What do you think? Comments to: email@example.com or postal mail to Dave Richards, WOON Radio, 985 Park Avenue, Woonsocket, RI 02895-6332.
Thanks for reading.