Gambling on the future

Published 11:22 am Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A lot of people over the last few weeks took a gamble with a couple of bucks or more for the chance to win a billion dollars or more in a super lottery. A Virginian didn’t win, but Virginia did because of the increased revenue in the lottery program. That is only true if you believe that those lottery dollars were simply going to be stuffed in the mattress, which some actually do. The fact is that unless the winner is a Virginian, the lottery players are not the only losers. Other losers are every business that the players patronize. Because, if one does not spend their dollars on the lottery, they would be buying other merchandise, entertainment or services.

Occasionally someone will mention the odds against hitting the big time with the lottery. They will compare that winning a mega-lottery is much less likely than getting hit by lighting. Folks would more likely get paid for their story of getting hit by lighting, if they live through it. However, if someone has worked to earn a dollar, then clearly they should have the right to gamble it away if they wish.


In the past, I have opposed the idea of having a casino in Virginia. The fact is that it generally adds no new dollars to our economy but rather simply stirs the current dollars as described before. That alone might not be a reason to disallow casinos in Virginia. However, as proposed, legislation in the past would have created a monopoly in one locality only, yet continue to disallow one in any other jurisdiction. I do not believe that the state should be the arbiter of what localities should be the home of casinos.

Last spring, after the 2018 Pamunkey Indian Tribe announced that, despite promises that they wanted national recognition and would not seek to create a casino, they reneged on that promise and sought to buy property in New Kent County to create a gambling mecca. Now a proposal has been offered to create casinos in Bristol, Portsmouth and Danville, as well as the aforementioned Indian reservation. There are moral reasons to question the wisdom of this effort, however, my greatest concern is creating monopolies. If Virginia is going to sanction casinos, all localities should be treated equally. If the people of Bristol vote to approve an operation, then the citizens of the surrounding localities should also have the same consideration. Likewise, the cities around Portsmouth should not be excluded from using the same process to compete. Danville’s neighbors also.

This is considered a form of economic development by proponents, yet if Tennessee and North Carolina see casinos doing well in Virginia, trust me those same states will change their laws to do likewise to prevent losing dollars across state lines. Expect to see many stories on this in the 2019 session.


Do not forget that there will be ceremonies Sunday and Monday honoring those who have served our nation. One of those will be in Richmond to celebrate the end of the World Wars. This is the last event of the year of the World War I and II Commission, on which I am proud to serve. Take the time to join one of the many celebrations that are scheduled. Show your patriotism and the respect we all should have for those who have served.

Frank Ruff represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.