Are you conflicted about video lottery?

The following sentence jumped out at me today from a story by our state Capitol reporter, Bob Mercer:

Video lottery is the second-largest single source of general revenue for state government after the sales tax.

The story is about the decision to allow lineup games, similar to those found on slot machines, on video lottery machines throughout the state. The mention of video lottery’s status as our state’s second-largest single source of revenue is just an aside, a kind of did-you-know. But it hits with a thud.

When I think of video lottery, I think of a particular place in Mitchell where I often stop to grab breakfast. Many mornings, people are there playing video lottery. This is happening around 8 a.m. Perhaps those people are not addicted, but I suspect they may have a serious problem if they’re gambling that early in the morning and doing so on a regular basis.

Scenes like that make me a little squeamish. I have no problem with video lottery being legal, but I do feel conflicted when I consider the extent to which our state has become dependent on gamblers and casino operators. I suppose I should be happy, because with all of those video lottery players helping to fund state government, I’m shouldering a far lighter burden than I otherwise would.

Still, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable when I see people hunched in front of a screen in a darkened video lottery parlor at 8 a.m. And when I hear that the money those people lose on gambling is the second-largest single source of our state’s general fund revenue, it makes me even more uncomfortable.

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