Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Great Sweepstakes Center Scandel

I am well acquainted with the idea of legalized gambling as there are many riverboat casinos in different areas of my home state of Illinois.  The closest one to my hometown in central Illinois was about an hour away on the Illinois River in Peoria.  I think gambling can be a great revenue source for a state, but it has to be controlled and highly regulated or it has the potential to be very harmful to an area.   In North Carolina (and several other Southern states) there is a bizarre loophole that allows computerized slot machines to be placed in Sweepstakes centers throughout the state.

Honestly, until I noticed that there was a sweepstakes center right down the street from me, I had no idea how common these sweepstakes centers were.  The sweepstakes center close to me is basically a room with two long rows of computers and someone tending the front desk(and looking disapprovingly out the front window). As I said, is a loophole allows them to sell internet or cell phone time for a variety of casino games to be played on their computers.  They are able to get around gambling rules because by selling the computer and cell phone time, they are not actually selling access to gambling.  Additionally, players are not actually given cash, but rather receive vouchers to be exchanged for cash.  Once I figured out what the sweepstakes centers, it occurred to me how rough the customers tended to look and how truly sparse the furnishings were.  I was also a bit disturbed by the fact that they were open from 10AM-2AM and I kind of wondered what the patrons leaving the establishment at 2AM would look like. 

There is just something disturbing about the idea that that casinos could spring up all over town because of this strange loophole.  Areas around Casinos (I'm looking at you Peoria Illinois) are often the kinds of places you want to avoid after dark.  I'm all for casinos and I love the lottery, but I really think that letting gambling run wild and unregulated like this could be very harmful.  I say tax the heck of them and regulate where they can set up shop and I think you could cushion the damage and still make some money for the state.  I mean honestly, I don't see why the state can't use this problem as a way to gain an alternative revenue stream that would put a dent in the state's budget shortfall.


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