The state of North Carolina and the video gaming industry are now in a struggle to see who can outflank the other in a staring contest that is being widely watched — and has ramifications on this state’s economy and law enforcement.
The video industry, which is far more nimble than a ponderous government, is currently idled by a state ban that took effect on Thursday, but industry officials are confident they will soon be back to work. They just need to tweak their software so that it again meets the state’s letter of the law, which seems to be getting finer and finer.
Meanwhile, patrons of the establishments will look elsewhere for their fix, with some taking their dollars to South Carolina, businesses that have invested heavily are losing that money and potential profit, workers have lost a paycheck in a state with the country’s fifth highest unemployment rate — and law enforcement, which has better things to do, might have to mobilize to seek out the machines that will go from the front room to the dark room.
What a grand waste of time and energy.
We’re here because the state, which sponsors the N.C. Education Lottery, has decided that video gaming is gambling, and residents should be protected from themselves. That ignores that winners are predetermined in video gaming, so gambling it isn’t — although it’s clearly a way to spend a lot of money in a short amount of time.
The Education Lottery is gambling as the winners are not predetermined. But the General Assembly, with now former Gov. Bev Perdue casting the tie-breaking vote in the Senate in 2005, established the lottery because the money plucked from people’s pockets would support education.
The hypocrisy is so rank that pointing it out seems superfluous.
A far better path would be for the state to get out of the way and allow local governments to regulate gaming with fees, enabling municipalities that need the revenue to capture it, and those that don’t need the money to push it away.
While we don’t oppose gambling fundamentally, seeing it as an entertainment choice, we wish it required more than a brisk walk to the corner store to buy a lotto ticket or feed a gaming machine dollars. But that option is all around us, so North Carolina’s effort, which obviously is not principled, is all for nothing.
History has shown us that government never looks more wayward and oppressive than when it tries to protect people from their own predilections. But that history keeps repeating itself.
After the gaming industry returns to compliance, the next move will be the state’s. If only it would pass.