Lotteries and slot machines are terrible bets, and only large corporations can own a casino. Talented people can work for a casino, but there is no chance for those people to ever own one.
Instead of starting lotteries and attempting to lure big casinos, states should license small gambling operations like the one my father had.
For a while, sports betting dollars were flowing to online betting parlors based in other countries, but Congress, led by Sen. Bill Frist, shut down that loophole.
I was in favor of shutting down the online betting parlors. Government entities in the United States were not able to tax winnings or regulate them.
Betting parlors, regulated and taxed by individual states, would be successful.
Dad was able to make money in the days before ESPN and the explosion of televised sports. Millions of people now participate in college basketball office pools, and there are newer sports, like NASCAR, keeping bookmakers busy. Thousands of people bet with illegal bookmakers every week, and the states should be taxing that money to provide better schools and services.
Sports gambling is a fair bet. In a football game, one team is going to win and the other will lose. It is not a trillion-to-one bet like the lottery.
Furthermore, I don't like having a state's tax revenues tied to the few big corporations that own casinos. If the corporate executives were to commit stupid or illegal acts, like those who ran Enron did, then the state could be dragged down with them. Licensing a variety of smaller companies would give states a wider tax base.
As noted, 48 states already license and regulate some form of gambling. If they expand their regulatory reach to sports betting and allowed it to operate officially, innovators would have more leeway to create opportunities for wealth in their communities.
As a betting man, my proposal is a long shot. No one is pushing sports betting, while the casino and slot machine companies are spending huge amounts of money on lobbyists and political donations. Even though illegal bookmaking is widespread, colleges and professional teams would fight against the legalization of sports betting.
I am opposed to the lottery because it exploits poor people.
The 37 states that have lotteries seem to ignore that lotteries target poorer citizens. Sports betting and poker rooms are better alternatives because they are fair to both the state and the gambler.
My Dad ran a fair and honest operation where people got paid on time and were cut off before they got too deep in the red. His career caused him to break the law, but he was one of the most honorable men I have ever known.
Before states rush off to embrace casinos and slot machines, they should allow small businesses to operate sports betting parlors and poker rooms.
As Kenny Rogers said, "The secret to surviving is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep." Sports betting is the ace that states should keep.
Don McNay is the author of the upcoming book Son of a Son of a Gambler.