Las Vegas is one of the legal gambling Mecca’s of the world. Atlantic City is another. The lottery in the United States generates billions of dollars in revenue. Casinos on Indian Reservations are wildly popular. Online poker is a multi-billion dollar business. So here’s my critical thinking question: why is something so popular illegal in most places in America? Isn’t it about time America grew up and stopped trying to tell it’s citizens what is moral and what is not? How about this idea: let’s legalize gambling, tax it at a high rate, and pay down some of the 14 trillion national debt? Instead of asking the Congress and Federal Reserve to print another $300 billion for a so-called ‘jobs bill’, how about allowing private enterprise to open more casinos and create REAL, SUSTAINABLE, work for the 40 million people who are unemployed? Watch this short video filmed today in Jaco Beach, Costa Rica. I’ll look forward to your comments.     Steve Siebold  (2:30)

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Steve Siebold
Author and Professional Speaker since 1997. Past Chairman of the National Speakers Association's Million Dollar Speakers Group. Author of 11 books with 1.4 million copies in print.

29 thoughts on “Why is Gambling Illegal in America?”

  1. Very interesting! I read what your followers have to say Steve and I thought about your question in depth. My thoughts ,coming from the ”Bible Belt” of Middle Tennessee are the same as yours. The Government cannot mannage the Institution they are charged to govern. The Moral issue is like spitting in the Ocean. There are alot of bad things in this world we live in and alot of good also. We make choices eveyday. To need the Government to decide for us means we cannot think for ourselves. I like freedom personally. I once needed my Mommy to hold my hand and kiss my Boo Boo’s. I needed Daddy to pay my Overdrafts when I bought stuff I could not afford but new he would cover. I realized one day that I am resposable for my own actions. There is an Ocean of plenty and things that will gobble you up in it’s depths I don’t go there cause I don’t want to be gobbled up but I do enjoy fresh fish and Ocean front property. I love my Country and my fellow man. Making choices is part of life. Some will Bless and others will Curse . Anything in excess can be unhealthy, but as thinking people , THINK!

  2. I think that a lot of comments go to the extreme. I agree with Steve that gambling ought to be legalized. According to a person I once heard who worked to help drug addicts, he said that there were 3 types of people who were very difficult to help with their addiction: alcoholics (can stop but will always be an alcoholic), gamblers and womanizers (I suppose he meant people with extreme sexual problems and this would also include women attracted to the opposite sex). True, we have drunks but licor is legal. In fact, since it was legalized in this country, it has stopped being so attractive. People like the thought of doing something “naughty”. Legalize it and it takes all the fun away. People who smoke have an addict that ruins their health, however, education has done more to stop them than legislation. It is no longer socially acceptable to smoke in closed spaces like it once was. I think that all these activities should be off limits to children but I also believe that we should educate them so that they can be responsible adults and allowed to make decisions for themselves – not by a government.

  3. Steve,

    I don’t know where to begin with you.

    “I don’t think Government should be telling us what we can or can’t do with our money.”

    Really? If you really believe your own critical thinking, then why advocate for taxing gambling revenues? Isn’t that tax just the government telling the casino owner what should happen to their money?

    “The government is trying to legislate morality.”

    All legislation is an attempt to legislate morality. We are always expecting some ‘good’ to come from legislation.

    “In our 200 years we have never succeeded in legislating morality.”

    Really? Even such legislation as doing away with child labor?

    “Let’s legalize gambling, tax it at a high rate, and pay down some of the 14 trillion national debt?”

    Isn’t it rather a large leap of faith to assume that if more revenue were received by the government that they would act prudently with it? Is there anything in their recent behavior to suggest they would pay down the debt? Or even stop raiding the social security and medicare funds which are meant to be holding accounts?
    If they stopped doing that today, I would be inclined to believe you might be right. But short of that it would be like giving a raise to an employee who you know is stealing from you.

    And that’s critical thinking?

  4. You’re right Steve, gambling does generate phenomenal amounts of money funding education and other civic needs in SOME areas. BUT, I don’t see legislation of morality going on–it’s not religion or morals–it’s the side effects….Something you did not address. Or do you know about them?

    According to Reader’s Digest June 1999 issue citing gambling Americans blew $50.9 BILLION–roughly 5 times the amount lost in 1980 and it’s grown since. The problems associated with the costs of gambling have been linked to child abuse, domestic violence, bankruptcies, welfare fraud and other criminal ills.

    In a Parade Magazine issue, May 20, 2007 the article lists the astounding tolls it takes on the American Public, citing the dangers akin to that of drugs, according to Marvin Steinberg, a psychologist and executive director of the Connecticut Council of Problem Gambling. They also cite that these costs are largely hidden, which accounts for the illusion of gambling being such a boon to the economy. The article goes on to say that some communities have concluded that the promised benefits are not worth the trade-offs. Voters in Ohio crushed a proposal to allow slot parlors, and Rhode Islanders killed a plan for a casino near Providence. Obviously those critical thinkers can do the math–something that gamblers can’t do when their intelligence is blurred by the lure of the game. So your assumption of legislated morality is a bit flawed, when you consider that a lot of this is by voter mandate, not “the government.”
    The article also states that several studies have documented a connection between the proliferation of casinos and people going broke, citing a 63% higher rate of bankruptcies in counties with casinos compared to those with none.

    Or, gamble your thinking against Nelson Rose, a law professor at Whittier College in California and author of more than 100 scholarly articles on gambling, saying the country is in the early stages of an inevitable backlash. Throughout history, Rose said periods in which social prohibitions against gambling have been lifted have always been followed by corruption and social pain, and then by renewed restrictions. The social costs of gambling are very hidden, but the costs are very great. So my question Steve, is it morality that is legislated when history repeats itself, or is it legislators/voters learning the same lessons over & over again.

    Steve, the so-called “moral legislation” doesn’t seem to be borne of morality per se, but the backfire cost tax payers bear in the problems it brings. As Howard Schaffer, director of Harvard Medical School’s Division on Addictions believe the public is beginning to change its attitudes. “I don’t think it’s going to be long before you’ll see people saying, ‘Is this really the way we want to finance our cities, our towns, our schools?’

    Although you may be mesmerized by the neon lights of the gambling halls touting the dollar benefit, critical thinking and looking deeper into the facts has convinced me that US citizens seldom learn from history and the gullible mentality of “something for nothing” that got us into the Great Depression, and the one we are in now. Is it a “moral” issue that gambling really does not produce intelligent, critical thinking individuals with a sound work ethic?

    One of my roommates way back when had a mother who worked for the Nevada Fair Game Commission and from what he told me that his mother dealt with it was mind boggling that we think gambling is such a boon without a cost. The gaming industry is set up to win–the public at large, loses. The casinos don’t really want you to know that but you would think gamblers would have learned that by now.

    I made a decision long ago about the value of a dollar, how to earn it, and how to use it, invest it, and gambling just ranked up there with a few other things I classified as sheer stupidity. Perhaps Dave Ramsey could weigh in on this as well if you’ve read his books as I have. Keeping a business afloat through the ups & downs of several economies and staying out of debt requires critical thinking about common sense and how to build sound financial success–something that has benefited me immensely. Gambling does not foster that kind of business mentality.

    I have a grandfather that blew his entire life savings and inherited fortune in the casinos at Wendover, Nevada, just 2 hours drive from Salt Lake City where I live. No one from the casinos came to his funeral. He never gave anything to his family. Having seen the costs with him, and others locally who have the same idea as you, I have to say Steve, it’s time you do some homework–it’s not as rosy of a picture as you portrayed. Why not teach critical thinking fiscal responsibility to the masses instead? The side effects are rather profitable for everyone, including the “government.”

  5. My problem with legal gambling is who is really doing the gambling? I am talking economic class here.
    On Wall St we have a “class” struggle appearing to take shape. We have a jobs bill that is class based. Again who will be doing all this gambling? The so-called 1% or the so-called 99%? The rich do gamble but I see idiots spend $50 a pop on lottery tickets and others who daily spend money on these tickets as their children go hungry!
    If we did not use morality as the basis to law we’d have immoral parents selling children on the street and other crazy things.
    Using gambling for a tax base is irresponsible and a way people avoid paying their responsibilities!

  6. Quite honestly, I could sit here and write paragraph after paragraph like everyone else but there is one core issue here. Everyone is responsible for their own actions. It’s not about what’s best for us. It never has been. My favorite analogy has always been this; how ironic is it that judges, prosecutors, etc. will sit in a bar having a drink to ALTER THEIR STATE OF MIND while they discuss the best way of addressing the issue of and punishing drug users for ALTERING THEIR STATE OF MIND ?!? Enough said…

  7. Steve,

    I agree. The govt. should assess where and how people are choosing to spend their cash and then take a percentage to pay down the debt.

    My Dad played the horses and after all was said and done, he ended up making extra money which he used to help our family.

    All through our evolutionary process things like mutations, natural selection or “survival of the fittest” have had a hand in who or what is still inhabiting this planet and who or what isn’t.

    Let it all be legal… as long as our children’s development can be protected. The herd always needs thinning. Let the people who want to self destruct, do so. It’s their right as much as it is ours to choose not to.

    Be Well,


  8. The real problem with all of these prohibitions is that the more a goverment legislates against something, the more people want to do it, since there is the thrill of the forbidden in it.

    Here in Germany, gambling is legal, you can do it in every town or city.
    And of course there are addicts, of course there are families destroyed.
    But the problem is not the gambling, it is the way people handle their lives, the choices they make.

    “Addictive personality” types will always find an outlet for their addiction anyway.
    All I would expect a government to do is to provide an environment where they can do it safely and to provide help if they are ready to accept it.

    Having said all that: If gambling was legalized in the US, that would be the end of Las Vegas. And, like many Europeans, I would love to see its awsome size and the amount of money being spent so easily in one place. : )

  9. Provided the necessary protections are in place to protect the vulnerable and help available for the addicts who’d like to stop but aren’t strong enough to do it alone, why not?

    After all, gambling on the stock market is legal in every state (I presume?)

  10. Abhinava,
    the question really should be: Is it right or wrong to gamble? This is a question each person has to decide for him/herself. It is not the duty of the government to force you to be responsible with your money. I agree with Napolean Hill on the gambling issue, but this decision not to gamble must come from within a person and forced on him from outside. Mental Toughness and Critical Thinking cannot be enforced by others on you, you have to embrace and live it daily.
    I am a very happy non-gambler, it is a waste of money for me.
    Mike Jacobi

  11. We are really between a rock (religion) and a hard place (the mafia) with this subject. For all practical purposes, gambling is already legal in America. Right now it is used by the do gooders of the Democrats to make up to the Indians for past grievances. Guess who is the biggest lobbying group to prevent national gambling right now?
    The argument, that the poor gets hit the hardest is also true for the lottery. But the poor already have the option to go to Indian “reservations” and gamble legally and they are using it.
    The real question remains: who should benefit from the gambling going on: The Indians or the US and state governments. I vote for the US and state governments through taxation.
    A note on the national sales tax: I am from Germany, we have the VAT tax since the late 60’s, it started at 11% and by now it is up to 19%. It is a hidden tax, as it must be included in the price, so nobody gets reminded, how much the government taxes you.
    The absolute libertarian position does have a logical flaw: Total freedom is anarchy. Freedom must be within certain bounds, like you can’t murder your fellow men. But you also must earn your liberty, by leading responsible lives. Do I think the current government regulates too much: definitely. Should there be a national discussion where to set the boundaries: of course.
    My main problem is legalizing drugs. From my point of view, America made a noticeable turn away from personal responsibility during the 60’s, when drugs, anti authoritarian education, free love, anti Vietnam, anti America ideas really started to dominate the country. That’s when a lot of the liability suits started, and when the majority of Americans started to blame others for their bad luck and fate and refused to take responsibility for their actions (and thus became Democrats). For me drugs play a very vital role in this. On the other hand I also see that drugs are a HUGE business for everybody: Dealers, distributors, banks, even police and government through confiscated property. So my idea would be to legalize drugs for a limited time (without announcing it), once the cartels, growers, distributors and dealers and their money are gone, outlaw it again. Do I think this will happen: no, there is just too much money involved at every level.

    Mike Jacobi

  12. Bravo…. I would like to know WHY Illinois & Wisconsin decided to force bars to NOT allow smoking when it is legal? Why didn’t some lawyer gather a “class action suit” against the state for pushing these businesses to close. think about it… Super Bowl Sunday, hanging @ the local pub with your boys… watching the game, drinking, smoking…. designated driver, of course. Now you’re @ home with the wife or girlfriend, who hate and/or do not understand football. (Ok, there are some that love the game too) Oh, I’m a 60-year old female x-smoker (allergic to smoke, but defend your right to it), who happens to understand & watch football…. the government, even locally decides what is “moral”…. from abortion to drugs…. hey…. they are ALL about self-destruction…. Yippee…. I say everyone gets to choose his/her own way to spend their live, and create their death, as long as it is perpetrated on himself/herself… NOT just a cause and effect thing. Hey, people die of heart attacks from over-work. Why don’t we stop allowing companies to give/make employees work overtime.
    So, bring on the casinos, bring on the drugs…. if I’m losing my money I wanna be high & NOT get a hangover!.. maybe even a male prostitute to take with me to the empty foreclosure I’m living in (squatting)!

  13. I agree Steve. It has a lot to do with he religious sector of America. It is a great source of tax revenue and it would create a tremendous amount of jobs. Some may say that gambling would harm the public as they say about marijuana legalization. I see alcoholics every day and I don’t see any one banning alcohol. I am with you. We choose our lives and we had better understand the consequences of our choices. That is the beauty of being free. We are where we are by the choices that we make. Where we are is no one’s fault, but our own. Freedom only comes when the people are ready to assume responsibilities for their choices. I believe we should legalize gambling, marijuana, and replace the federal income tax with a national consumer tax. We would be out of debt real soon.

  14. I agree. It is an activity many people enjoy. I am not one of them but no matter. As long as an activity can be carried out without danger to others in the community, it ought to be allowed. In my city, a casino has been legalized, just one, and it has been decided that some of those tax revenues will be used to save a professional sports franchise. Now, we have disagreements about that. But we tax all kinds of so-called vices. People hate smoking but it is still legal, the tax revenue cannot be lost.

    Steve, you are correct about legislating morality. I just watched the Ken Burns’ documentary about prohibition. We have historically had a group in the U.S. that wants to dictate what others should be allowed to do. Those efforts, like prohibition of alcoholic beverages, have always failed. Most Americans do not want their activities limited except to protect the health and welfare of themselves and other citizens.

  15. Government enforcing morality? Hmmm.. I hardly think that is the case here. The facts are that studies have shown are that gambling is in essence a tax on the poor. Why is it that people with no high school diploma spend close to $150/month gambling? And those with a college or university education spend less than $50/m?

    So isn’t it wonderful that our local casino helps pay for education? Yes, let’s legalize gambling right across the country so the poor can get poorer, and my kids can go to school and use a brand new computer lab funded by the parents whose kids dropped out of school. No, I don’t have a problem with that at all.

    Please… legalizing gambling will not fix the problem, it will only make it worse. It is not a moral issue, it’s an economic one.

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