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Peggy Noonan, the noted political analyst, wrote a powerful article in the Wall Street Journal on February 25, 2016.  She described two groups, the protected and the unprotected.  The protected make public policy.  The unprotected have to live by it.  The protected are dependent on wealth for their protection while the unprotected are subject to losing what little they have  at any time.  The growth of gambling in the US is one of the most obvious examples of this.

Forty years ago gambling was mostly on the illegal fringe of society and mostly confined to Nevada if you were looking for legal gambling.  Then came Atlantic City in 1968.  At the same times state after state was adding a lottery.  With this gambling moved from remote locations to you corner convenience store, it increased.  Additional states saw the tax revenue and added casinos.  The Courts opened the doors with the Cabazon case to Indian gambling casinos, which for a time outpaced commercial casino gambling in growth.  Casinos were no longer remote, but the lotteries were ubiquitous.  The next step by the “protected” was to get inside the homes of the unprotected.  This gave rise to the attempt to approve gambling over the internet which has only been partially successful.  That is, until the arrival of Daily Fantasy  Sports games (DFS).

This is the ultimate gambling effort because it moves the gambling into your home on your computer. Paying the “entry fee” for DFS is no different that buying a Bingo card, and no one argues the Bingo is not gambling even though quick reflexes may help a little.  DFS is popular because the populace has been carefully and steadily trained to think they enjoy losing their money gambling for over forty years.

Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks, is the latest to attack opponents of DFS.  He says the politicians who oppose are just trying to make a name for themselves.  He implies that there could be no other reason for opposition.  He claims that it is a game of skill.  The only skill is to have an excellent computer program for multiple entriesand lots of money for multiple entries.  The rest is chance and the little guy who plays seldom wins anything, let alone the big prizes.  He (Cuban) flippantly wishes th politicians good luck in trying to kill DFS.  It is too popular  and therefore he is investing in the companies. 

Cuban claims that fantasy companies are a good investment, despite several investors reducing the value of their stake in the companies.  And despite the two big ones losing #300 million last year.  He further claims that the number of DFS players will soon exceed the actual number who play sports.  That should not be too hard since the physical window for playing sports is narrow but DFS can take your money for years until is runs out.  I will be impressed when the DFS numbers reach th 140 million or so who play the lotteries each year.  Cuban claims to be a wise investor.  Most of us do not have enough money to be investors: so we are consigned to dribble away our money $5 or more a day.  The unprotected need protection from the predators.

 

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Director, Commonwealth Policy Center