Letter: Wrong Side of Morality

To The Editor:

Last month in Washington, D.C., amid cherry blossoms, I visited the Martin Luther King Memorial. As I read his words carved in stone, it struck me forcefully that some policy issues truly have only one morally right answer. Not many, but some. Civil rights is one. King’s greatness was saying so in a way that those who’d been deaf could hear.

To me, casino gambling is another. Not that all gambling is immoral. Friendly poker games involve deceit, but it’s deceit players consent to — just as football players consent to what would otherwise be criminal assault. But for-profit casinos are fundamentally different: Gambling against a machine (or algorithm) you know is rigged against you is downright irrational (meaning causing harm to one’s self for no reason). It’s just flushing one’s money down the toilet. And the crux is, it’s unpardonably immoral for a government to induce its own citizens to act irrationally and harm themselves. That violates the bedrock social contract.

Some claim machine gambling is justified by the pleasure gamblers get. I say that doesn’t count because it’s a pleasure grounded in a false and irrational belief — namely that there exists some personal supernatural force or luck that will bypass the laws of nature and statistics to help a player beat the odds. There is no such force. Machines don’t care who puts the money in. God is impartial and doesn’t take sides. Besides, those who believe in luck can never stop after one win.

Civilizations are capable of getting morally better or worse. The strides we’re making in equal rights is one way ours is getting better. But the epidemic spread of casinos is one way it’s getting worse. On this issue, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan is on the wrong side of morality, and the wrong side of history. I beseech our legislators to have the courage to say so.

Bernie Waugh