Savannah minister comes out swinging against casino gambling in Georgia

I guess I should say off the bat that I have some libertarian leanings and think that a lot of currently outlawed or restricted “vices” should be legalized.

But I’ve always had a problem with the Georgia Lottery. I DON’T have a problem with its most promoted and most important result: HOPE and pre-K funding.

But only 26% of lottery sales go toward education, and so more than $2 billion of Georgians’ money is caught in a big loop that has nothing to do with college or pre-K funding — the money goes back to players in winnings, as payouts to stores, to employees, administration, and overhead.

I had my come-to-Jesus-moment regarding the Georgia Lottery about a decade ago when I stopped to pick up something at a less-than-stellar convenience store on Pennsylvania Avenue on the east side of Savannah. I was about to walk out because the line was so long, but then I was waved right to the front. I was the only one actually buying a product — a half dozen or so men in front of me were all waiting to “play” the Lottery.

While there are plenty of middle-class and above Georgians who buy Lottery tickets, I think we all know that it’s still a massive, regressive, self-selected tax. That Lottery spending deprives some struggling families of critical money, and some whole neighborhoods suffer too since so little money comes back in to help students from some areas.

Sure, it’s self-selected, so we can only blame the players. That may be an easy justification, but not a morally satisfactory one to me.

All that said, I think all Georgians who complete high school should get a very low cost shot at college. I’d look at a system with tuition loans for all students that don’t have to be repaid as long as students are progressing toward a degree. I would fund that through rather mundane tax channels rather than through a system like the Georgia Lottery.

Anyway, to the point of this post: Check out Reverend Creede Hinshaw’s Casino a ‘no brainer’? I hope not in today’s Savannah Morning News. He takes direct aim at the proposal to expand gambling in the state (and thus funnel more money to HOPE) through the legalization of casinos:

Gussy it up however one chooses. Add a sports bar and restaurant run by Herschel Walker. Maybe check tax returns at the door to screen the dregs. The truth is that this proposal asks our state to expand its role of suckering people into thinking that they’re having fun while helping others.

Forget the major social costs and the addictive gambling problems. Let’s dare not ask why the richest nation in the world has to resort to outright deception to educate its children and young adults

I tried for months to learn how our state spends the pittance that is set aside by law to address addictive gambling, finding that reluctant lottery representatives were immensely suspicious of simple questions.

Rev. Hinshaw is pastor at Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church in Savannah’s Historic District. He writes op-eds periodically — and they’re always worth a read.

So how do I jibe my libertarian bent with my distaste for the Lottery? I guess I’d say this: sure, let’s have legalized gambling, but let’s not kid ourselves that it’s the best or only way to fund education. And let’s be honest about the damage it’s doing to individuals and entire communities.