Rabu, 23 Juni 2010

Play online slots and watch your winnings roll in

Looking round the US right now is a bit like Alice in Wonderland (but not the big-earning version by Tim Burton which looks to beat the one billion mark in takings worldwide). There's a lot of unreality around and it all goes back to one of these pesky idioms, "Trying to get blood from a stone". Let's take it step by step. In the world of boxing, you introduce the fighters according to their corners. So, in the blue corner, you have the lefty socialist liberals and they all want to keep the entitlement spending without increasing taxes. While in the red corner, you have all those Tea Party members who want to do away with government and all its spending on little things like defense and the infrastructure that delivers electricity, drinking water and so on. Oh, and they don't want to raise taxes either. In fact, abolishing big government means no IRS. So, whoever you ask, they all agree it's impossible to raise taxes ("starve the beast" as the GOP puts it) but, without more money coming from somewhere, it will be impossible to balance the budget. Does balancing the budget matter? Well, ask Greece whether they should balance their budget. Once the riots die down, you may have an answer. In the meantime, the world's lenders think Greece will default on its debts. In ten years time, without action from the US government (big or small), the same fear may affect the US power to borrow.



So, right now, states cannot raise taxes and face paying out on entitlements. The majority are licensing more gambling. The levy is not counted as a tax and is politically acceptable. Except, there's too much gambling already. No matter how many casinos or other sites you licence, there's still the same number of gamblers. Hence, the reference to "blood from stone". It's going to be very difficult for states to get any real increase in revenue, particularly when you add in the effect of online gambling. With rising gas prices and family budgets still under pressure because of the recession, it's cheaper and more convenient to stay home to gamble.


So, let's pick a few states and see what plans are in the pipeline. Go to Boston and you find yourself in a war zone with New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island all pushing their own gambling agendas. Wherever you look, there are plans for new resort-casinos and thousands of slot machines at race tracks and dedicated slots parlors. With all these states in competition to attract the same hard-core gamblers, they all risk ending up with little improvement to their revenue streams. More interestingly, you have to doubt the commercial judgement of the corporations still prepared to consider building new casinos. Just as the states have looming deficits to fill, many of the existing casinos have fallen on hard times as online slots have grown more popular. Indeed, if the GOP and its Tea Party element are against big government, they should oppose the use of gambling to prop up state finances. Surely, the libertarian stays home to play slots, keeps all the winnings and pays no taxes, direct or indirect.

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