Mackie: Casino Gambling in New Hampshire? You Bet Your Life

The fact that New Hampshire is cozying up to casino gambling seems peculiar to me, but what do I know? I’ve been waiting for decades for the Prize Patrol to ring the doorbell and make me a millionaire.

In a way, the Granite State wants its own Prize Patrol to appear, because Lord knows we don’t want to pony up for state trooper pay or more tar for the highways. (Speaking only for myself, I am OK with paying for bridge repairs, because any Tea Party leanings I might have fade when there’s nothing between me and the ground but crumbling infrastructure.)

Gambling has always struck me as a way to rid yourself of excess money. It seduces by making you feel smart, because clever folks can beat the odds. That is why so many brainy, wealthy people are sleeping in their cars outside casinos. Why waste dough on overhead?

I am hardly an expert. I once left Foxwoods Casino 20 bucks ahead after a couple hours playing the cheap slots, and once lost 20 bucks in an hour at Trump’s place in Atlantic City. Coming out even makes me technically a genius.

Last time I went there, Foxwoods had major spillover economic development, like a Dunkin’ Donuts and a gas station that had dragged itself there from 1949. The Atlantic City casinos radiated wealth about 50 feet in all directions, just enough cover as you fled nervously back to your car in sight of bad neighborhoods.

If we are going to help finance the state by skimming casino profits, there follows a natural question: Why not go all in? Here are some ideas that spring to mind:

Make traffic stops an interesting proposition. Say you had a 50 percent chance of getting off scot-free, and the same odds of having the fine tripled. “I’ll take that offer, Officer. Let’s play spin the taser.’’

Have a similar deal at the toll booths: triple the toll or nothing. Throw in the occasional super prize, say, a cool grand. That will have them driving up from Massachusetts in such a hurry that the State Police Ticket Patrol wwill be doing a land-office business.

Why leave out the kids? It’s all for the kids, really, in the end. Right now the state offers its children a so-called “adequate education,’’ the court-decreed standard that sucks up money and is kind of boring. Would you want to eat at the Adequate Restaurant? Or have your hip replaced at Adequate Memorial Hospital? No, of course not, absent a two-for-one special.

Let the school districts let it ride. Spin the Wheel of Education and some districts win 100 percent funding, and maybe more — Hello Harvard! The less fortunate get a consolation prize, such as 1947 textbooks from the State Department of Education archives. “OK class, today we’re studying British Togoland and the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen. Fill up your fountain pens and take some notes...”

As quickly as possible, hire actor Joe Pesci (Wise Guys, Casino) as the state spokesman. Pesci is a small man with a high voice who’s wired like a rat terrier, with a touch of crazy that makes things interesting. “Come visit and Live Free or Die, and I’m not kidding about the last part,’’ Pesci could say in a comic/ominous national ad campaign.

Of course, casinos mean jobs. Who can resist jobs? You say we’ll need more police? I say those are jobs. You say there will be more bankruptcy filings? I say those bring jobs in the respected legal profession. You say we’ll need social workers, suicide hotline operators and addiction counselors? Jobs, jobs, jobs!

Why leave local governments out of the action? There’s nothing duller than property taxes, so let’s put a little gamesmanship into the annual exercise. “You Bet Your House’’ sounds pretty good, except for sore losers.

You might gather from my tone that I disapprove of gambling, and you might argue that people will gamble anyway, with bookies. But then I think that bookies need jobs, too, and I am confused about everything.

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