BOSTON CONSULTING GROUP
Joseph Bentivegna MD

While our political class is hoping to aid the urban minorities by proposing zoning law changes to allow more affordable housing in the suburbs, and “woke” school curriculums, another plan is being hatched to further soak urban minorities of the little disposable income they have – sports gambling.

This regressive taxation against our poor has been going for decades. Connecticut legalized the lottery in the early 1970s and with clever marketing plans, convinced poor minorities that they actually had a chance of winning enough money to change their lives — even though the odds are infinitesimal.

The lottery now brings in $370 million annually to the Connecticut government’s coffers and studies have shown the  majority of ticket sales occurs in overwhelmingly poor minority neighborhoodsover 50%. There are not a lot of Powerball winners in New Canaan, Darien or Greenwich. But this was even made worse with casino gambling.

Gov. Lowell Weicker made a deal with the Foxwoods casino in 1992, that later was extended to the Mohegan Sun casino in which 25% of the revenue from the slot machines was turned over to the state. Presently, this brings in close to $300 million annually. But this is a grossly regressive tax because those who play slot machines tend to be poorer. The high rollers playing on the expensive blackjack and crap tables pay nothing. Furthermore, slot machines have a notoriously low payout, only 92% in Connecticut, meaning you will lose $8 for every $100 you bet.

Following Governor Weicker’s footsteps, Gov. Ned Lamont has made a deal with both casinos in which they pay a 13.75% tax on sports betting profits. This is estimated to bring in an additional $40 million annually.

Sports betting, like the lottery and slots, is a sucker’s game. It is almost impossible to win in the long run. This is because there are basically two types of bets. On entails how much a team is going to win by over another team. This is called the spread. For example, no one in the right mind would bet with even odds that High Point College was going to beat the UConn women. However, with a spread of 40.5 points, you may want to consider betting with even odds. So, let’s say you bet $100 on High Point to beat the spread and the final score is UConn Women 100 and High Point 65. You should win $100. But you don’t. The casino takes around 10%. Thus, you only get $90. The House always wins.

Now you could also bet on High Point College to beat UConn with 20 to 1 odds, meaning if you bet $100 and High Point wins, you get $2,000. The problem here is that the chance of the UConn women losing to High Point is much less than 20 to 1. In fact, it is about as likely as an asteroid hitting the arena during the game. Again, it is a sucker’s bet. The bookies who figure out these odds are highly intelligent people who do this for a living. You can’t outsmart them in the long run.

But it gets worse. The casinos are working with an online betting company called DraftKings that allows you to deposit money with a credit card. But DraftKings also has other features including “in-running” bets in which you can bet on live action during a game. Is Paige Bueckers going to make both her foul shots? Will Chris Boswell make that 50-yard field goal? Will the ref call roughing the passer when Tom Brady gets hit with a feather duster? This is insanity. Gambling addicts will be losing hundreds of dollars a game.

There are those who will argue that since the surrounding states are in on the action, we have to do the same. But why should we stoop to their level? If this is allowed, soon we will be seeing ads with jovial minority actors displaying their iPhones with thousand-dollar deposits they made gambling on sports. But the reality will be much different – despair, domestic violence, substance abuse, alcoholism and bankruptcy. A relative of one of my patients blew his brains out in the Foxwoods casino parking lot after losing big.

The state assembly and Senate have yet to approve of the governor’s plan. Maybe a few Black politicians will step up to the plate and go to bat for their constituency, but this is unlikely. They would risk losing political support from public employee unions whose main interest is preserving ample pensions and Cadillac health insurance. And this constituency will never be satisfied. Within a few years, the Democrats will be back asking for more and all that our urban minorities will receive is more credit card debt.

Joe Bentivegna is an ophthalmologist in Rocky Hill.

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