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My previous column focused on the mass public rip-off program known as the state lottery, particularly the boldness of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for Christmas carrying fake lottery ticket gifts. Every holiday season, Harrisburg officials take on the role of anti-Santa, deceiving gullible citizens with dubious promises of riches they will never receive.
Let’s call it a gambling problem. A gambling problem promoted by the government.
And the injustice doesn’t just lie with the government. Of course, the private sector is guilty too, especially thanks to the Commonwealth’s legalization of gambling, beginning with the sweeping thrust of riverboat gambling that opened the floodgates in the 1990s. The public and private sectors aggressively promote a practice that was once widely considered a social vice.
There are so many examples I could give from the private sector, but I want to label sports media.
This happens nationally and locally. The other day I was sitting with my sons at a Primanti and looked up at the TV station FS1. The talk dudes at their round table discussed the latest lines on games, followed by a promotion for a damn thing called “Fox Super 6” that excitedly urged, “Win $ 1000!”
Other than that you won’t win $ 1,000 – or at least the vast majority won’t.
This is one of a thousand examples that regularly hit my radar. It’s a national case. But I also get these messages locally all the time. Check out 93.7 FM, The Fan, Pittsburgh’s premier all-sports broadcaster.
I’m a huge fan of The Fan. I can name all of the hosts. These people are really good, and the Pittsburgh area is fortunate to have them. But inevitable with The Fan (and absolutely not unique to this station) is the nonchalant promotion of gambling. The hosts make live spots for various operations and discuss personal bets in informal conversations.
By the way, I’m always curious when I hear guys talking about sports betting. How do you do it “responsibly”? Do you have a kitten play money next to every paycheck to wager on games? A special account to play with? If I did that, my wife would kick my head (she teaches kickboxing).
“Bet with Confidence All Year Round!” A host encourages him to rattle off the slang and parlays for a “Bet MGM” app before concluding, “Do you have a gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER. “
Again, this is certainly not limited to the good guys at The Fan. I hear it all over the place on sports stations. But it relates to my larger cultural point in this column and in my previous column: There is no longer any stigma attached to gambling. In the name of “freedom” – a form of freedom encompassed by license – and the advancement of the mighty dollar, we have accepted vice and aggressively promoted it.
When I was a student in Pitt, my roommate, Dave, went to the bar next to our apartment building on Sunday morning to buy a couple of six-packs of Iron City pounders (a ritualistic thing from Steelers-Pittsburgh) and place bets on games. It was illegal, but we were fascinated by the boldness of the matter – and cost Dave a lot of money that would have been spent on books, food, and food.
Today Dave doesn’t have to be a secret. He could bet legally, especially in “playful” Pennsylvania.
So that we don’t need a reminder, you don’t want to promote gambling.
Paul Kengor is Professor of Political Science and Scientific Director of the Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City College.
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