Wanna Bet? Gambling and the Decline of Decency

David Blankenhorn, American Values Magazine, 12/23/2013

Are you curious why so many U.S. states – New York recently became the 25th – are turning to casinos as a source of revenue, and why so many voters seem to favor the idea? Perhaps politicians and citizens alike are unperturbed because the key words needed to speak intelligibly about the subject, not least "gambling" and "casino", have lost nearly all integrity and moral charge. Indeed, you can hardly find these words at all in recent debates. Those with big money at stake in the gambling industry – pardon me, the "gaming" industry – have spent enormous sums of time and money trying to convince Americans that what they once viewed as "gambling" does not exist and that "casinos" are places where Americans go for harmless entertainment. They are lying about this, and they are lying for the basest of reasons: greed. Gambling does not mean playing games. It is anything but harmless, and cannot honestly be described as simply another form of entertainment.

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Subjects: Gambling, Casinos

More by: David Blankenhorn

Are you curious why so many U.S. states – New York recently became the 25th – are turning to casinos as a source of revenue, and why so many voters seem to favor the idea? Perhaps politicians and citizens alike are unperturbed because the key words needed to speak intelligibly about the subject, not least "gambling" and "casino", have lost nearly all integrity and moral charge. Indeed, you can hardly find these words at all in recent debates. Those with big money at stake in the gambling industry – pardon me, the "gaming" industry – have spent enormous sums of time and money trying to convince Americans that what they once viewed as "gambling" does not exist and that "casinos" are places where Americans go for harmless entertainment. They are lying about this, and they are lying for the basest of reasons: greed. Gambling does not mean playing games. It is anything but harmless, and cannot honestly be described as simply another form of entertainment.

The incomparable Lewis Carroll alerted us long ago to the perilous fungibility of language: "'When I use a word', Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.'" And the equally incomparable George Orwell counseled us what to do about it. He first warned that "political language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." He later added: "We have now sunk to such a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men." That, precisely, is what we are about to do as we examine the pernicious role and brazen encroachments of gamble-speak in our national conversation.

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This article originally appeared here.

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