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From the Left Hand Corner: Not very "charitable" gambling

It is not a plus for our state government to now be spending much time on whether “charitable” gambling ought to be expanded in Minnesota.

There are far more issues of pressing and real importance remaining to be dealt with in the closing days and hours of the 2014 legislative session.

To this observer, we have a very mixed bag of gambling laws, rules and regulations, as created and motivated by the personal profit potential made possible under legalized gambling.

The whole concept of gambling is deemed by many to be questionable, and there certainly is further question why it takes up much time and resources and whether that is appropriate government function.

Gambling can be fun entertainment for those so inclined, for those who can afford it. It can be pleasant social pastime, enjoying the excitement and the sociability. It can even be challenging and educational where determining numbers and applied psychology are involved.

But there is not much math education or challenge of wits when you’re buying lottery tickets or pulling pull tabs. Quite simply, “the more you play, the more you pay”.

As to gambling, I grew up in a mixed environment. Mother detested gambling, thinking any form of gambling was sinful. She even went to the extreme of voting for a Republican for governor — because he vowed to get rid of the then-nickel slot machines in Minnesota.

Dad, on the other hand, loved every and any then-available competitive game of chance and skill.

I tend to believe there is more educative psychology going on in most competitive poker games than can be found in most psychology textbooks.

However, when we still have hungry people in our midst, some who don’t have a place to sleep tonight; when our transportation system is failing; and our education system is under-funded, I think expansion of public legalized gambling ought to be of low, low priority.

It’s hard to get very excited about gaining some public profit to help a couple of billionaires build a football stadium (even though, given the present circumstances, I might concede the expenditure).

Last Friday’s StarTribune headlined its front page with “Furor builds in Lottery Fight”. The story was of a clash over lottery expansion in online and newly contrived gas pump lottery ticket sales, and legislators calling halt. “Lottery officials have been meeting daily with legislators to broker a compromise.”

To show how out of proportion and out of hand the subject has become, the reporter noted that, “The intensifying fury over the issue is drawing a range of powerful lobbyists in the closing days before the final vote.”

Rep Davnie noted that the lottery is “aggressively recruiting the next generation of gamblers.”

He concluded, “I don’t think that is the purpose of government,” to which this writer agrees.

The newswriter noted that “Online ticket sales began under Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and have accelerated under Dayton.”

As often, politics makes strange bedfellows. In this case, convenience store associations who are usually at odds with tribal gambling interests are aligned with the tribes in apprehension over lottery gas pump sales.

What is disconcerting to this writer is that Linq3, a New York company that sells interactive gas pumps to facilitate lottery sales, has “upped its lobbying force at the Capital from three members to eight in the past two months. The lobbyists are trying to separate their interactive gas pumps from the furor over online lottery ticket sales.”

Isn’t that a sad example of too much money in politics being spent more in detriment than solution?

I agree with Rep Holberg, who says, “It’s a big mess”, and I am encouraged that our Speaker of the House Thiessen is troubled by online lottery sales and thinks more should be learned and done before we let the lottery director expand online.

On a concluding note: Happy Norwegian Independence Day on Saturday!