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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


The reason why states look to gambling for revenue is the same one that Willie Sutton offered for a career that included large, unauthorized withdrawals from banks.

But plans by the state of Illinois to sell its lottery falls into the classic trap of gambling -- looking for a big score without considering the long-term prospects.

Talk of casinos is yet again filling the corridors of Beacon Hill as signs of a slowdown continue. Housing prices continue to slide, good news for home buyers and great news for the state long term if it were to continue. But while it's partially good news for homeowners who could eventually see a break in rising property taxes as valuations fall, it's real bad news for elected officials.

Then there are the words of House Speaker Sal DiMasi -- don't expect a gravy train this year.

Coupled with warnings about sagging revenue growth -- and unaffordable "bare bones" mandatory insurance policies, it's clear this is going to be a tough budget year.

But in their haste to find revenue sources, Massachusetts lawmakers shouldn't consider the Illinois route, for all the reasons detailed in the Times story. Unlike casinos, for example, privately held lotteries can't be held to tough standards on where and how to sell "dreams."

But first and foremost, Illinois is going to be looking at chump change when all is said and done. Gambling is a fact of life and will continue until the nukes hit. That means private companies will rake in the bucks well after the sale proceeds are spent for "frills" like education.

Talk about gambling on the future.

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