“Ten times on the Vikings for Sunday; three Quick Picks and an ounce of the California hydroponic. And can I renew my driver’s license while I’m here?”
New York’s not there yet, but it shan’t be long. Vice is in; prudish government is out. And we’re gonna roll fat ones with all the C-notes pouring in. Or so the theory goes.
Legal recreational marijuana is probably an election cycle away in New York, and talk about professional sports betting in New York kicked off minutes after a Monday U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing states to go into the bookmaking business. Eight-to-five that Albany green-lights it next year.
What’s it all going to mean? In truth no one knows — and yet everyone knows. Libertine impulses always prove insatiable, individually and collectively. Scratching at them, like at glimmering lottery tickets, hollows us out in time. Look on the floor of any check-cashing joint.
And still it’s a fine line because this is where we are. We no longer want to prosecute marijuana offenses — so we tacitly encourage weed’s use — and spendthrift legislators can’t bear seeing vigorish in other people’s hands.
There’s the libertarian impulse, too. Why does government have the right to tell us what to do? That’s always a good question. But there’s also the social contract: What individual liberties should we voluntarily forgo to ensure that things don’t get away from us as a society? Sixteen-ounce Mountain Dews are hanging on by a thread.
We know who’s going to pay the steepest price if marijuana and sports betting go through. It’ll be the addicts, of course. And the poor, dreaming of quick riches or a cheap escape. Statistics bear it out. Triggers for the gamblers be ubiquitous, as for the lottery: Subways Series Tuesday. Make Sure to Support the Team!
But people will gamble and get high anyway, you say. Why not cut out the bookies and the dealers; why not take the revenue?
Besides, most people aren’t addicts. Why can’t I enjoy a couple of hits of pot after a long day. Why can’t I fill out a weekend betting sheet at the office without having to look over my shoulder?
It all makes perfect sense. And yet, somehow, it feels, with dreaded certainty, that we are sinking deeper into hopelessness.
William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.