If we can’t beat gambling, tax the house

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For years, the Rocky Mount Telegram has used this space to argue against gambling of all kinds – including the state lottery, video poker and Internet sweepstakes. But while the operations of such games of chance often prey upon those who can least afford them, the fact is, North Carolina courts consistently have sided with gaming operations in lawsuits challenging state efforts to restrict them.

Continuing to rail against the games at this point is a bit like shaking our fists at the sky when it’s raining. It becomes silly to fight the inevitable.

With that in mind, we now urge the state and cities such as Rocky Mount to move more aggressively in their efforts to tax and license such operations. Cities all over the state have levied licensing fees on Internet sweepstakes cafes to put money from the operations to the public good. The state, meanwhile, would be smart to regulate and tax casinos.

Taking charge of such operations puts gambling under closer supervision and nets money for the state. We’d like to think the burden might deter smaller operators from opening gambling centers on every street corner. Unfortunately, the odds are stacked so heavily in favor of the house that a tax here or a licensing fee there is small potatoes, compared to the profits to be had. That’s a big reason why it’s so foolish to buy a lottery ticket or “Internet time” in the first place, but we digress.

If the forces behind gambling can hire enough lawyers to make the games a lock, governments should get a slice, at least, for the public good.