Sunday, June 6, 2010

Gambling Responsibly?

So I'm driving through the hills of the coastal range, steering toward the Central Valley and my niece's graduation party.  It's the tail-end of a long week; and I'm listening in as the Giants play the Pirates.  Not a bad afternoon, really. 

Between innings, I catch an ad for some California casino.  Somewhere in the state where we're pink-slipping good teachers and slashing social services, somebody's got enough left over to go gambling.  I confess this makes me crazy.

I know it's not just California.  I've seen stories in the Boston Globe - it's happening across the country.  Governors are settling for casinos as economic development.  The rest of us are settling for gambling as recreation.  Am I a Puritan prude?  Or is this insanity?

Then, at the end of this 30 second ad for some casino - more than willing to take your money for nothing - the casino has the balls to add: "And, remember, friends, gamble responsibly."  I'm totally serious.  "Gamble responsibly."  As if, saying it like that makes it so.  As if, there's a way for BP to 'gamble responsibly' 5000 feet below the surface of the sea.  As if, there's a way for California to 'gamble responsibly' with all these kids whose schools are failing miserably.  As if, there's a way for us to invest nothing in infrastructure, nothing in clean energy, nothing in education, nothing in environmental protection, nothing in job training.  "And, remember," says the ad, "gamble responsibly."

I know the days of preachers wailing against things like gambling are long gone.  And thank God.  But I wonder, here in 2010, where the outcry comes from?  Who says enough?  Who says: Let's prioritize our communities according to values like public education.  Let's acknowledge that wealth isn't simply a private accomplishment, but a public resource that comes with huge obligation.  Let's make some commitments to one another.

Is gambling the best we can do?