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Monday, March 5th, 2023

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


 Welcome to Louisiana. Where you will find the largest assortment of gambling options anywhere. It might be the gambling mecca of the world. So go ahead and pick your poison.

You can go to one of four federally approved Indian casinos and 43 state-licensed casinos where you can pick a large selection of betting options.  Craps, slot machines, Bourré, blackjack, Baccarat, roulette, poker (Texas hold’em, Five-card draw, Omaha hold’em), and Big Six-wheel.  Then you can also choose pool, the lottery, online gambling of sports, horse racing tracks, off-track wagering, the list goes on and on.  There are 200 truck stop casinos and over 1000 restaurants and bars that have video poker machines. Cock fighting was outlawed just a few years ago, but still takes place in Cajun country.

Sports betting is the new mantra for bettors with full page ads running daily in many of the state’s newspapers.  And can you believe the state’s major university is openly soliciting its students to gamble online?  Even though it’s against the law for someone in Louisiana to gamble who is under twenty-one, the state’s flagship LSU is illegally urging students to sign up for an online account and gamble on any number of sporting events. “It just feels gross and tacky for a university to be encouraging people to engage in behavior that is addictive and very harmful,” said Robert Mann, an L.S.U. journalism professor. 

Lia Nower, a professor and director of the Center for Gambling Studies at Rutgers University writes: “Gambling is a very different addiction from drugs or alcohol. If I’m drunk or high, at some point my family is going to figure it out. With gambling, I can be sitting with my kids, watching cartoons, and gambling away my house, my car, everything I own, on my mobile phone. How would you know?”

It would be one thing if the state’s gambling obsession was being absorbed into the economy that was ticking with new businesses, a growing population, and an improving quality of life. But when you compare such qualities in surrounding states, Louisiana continues to be at the bottom of the barrel. Now it seems like we have become obsessed with a gambling addiction.

Shouldn’t our public officials offer options to bring the Bayou State in line with our neighbors? Yes, we have a growing number of chemical plants along the Mississippi river. But these operations require fewer employees as their functions become more mechanized. Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, and Tennessee all have thriving and growing economic bases.  Companies that require a large number of employees.

 I recently returned from a trip in North Carolina, and my route took me through Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. I passed any number of automobile plants and distribution centers that individually seem to take up thousands of acres. Nissen and Toyota have massive plants in Mississippi, and the Mercedes plant in Alabama looks like a major city.  Louisiana does not have the trained workforce that is required to operate such plants.

Writer Walker Percy, who is buried in Covington, gave this view of his home state. “Its marshes have been plundered and polluted, one of the highest cancer rates in the county and the loss of fifty square miles of wetlands yearly.” He went on to lament that Louisiana should be much more than what he decried as “a slightly sleazy playground for tourists and conventioneers.”

And sadly, how about this from our state’s current most prolific writer James Lee Burke, who has written some 40 novels mostly about Louisiana.  “I also believe my home state is cursed by ignorance and poverty and racism, much of it deliberately inculcated to control a vulnerable electorate. And I believe many of the politicians in Louisiana are among the most stomach-churning examples of white trash and venality I have ever known. To me, the fact that large numbers of people find them humorously picaresque is mind numbing, on a level with telling fond tales of one’s rapist.” 

Tough comments from two respected authors who have observed the Bayou State for many years. Will the state ever change? It’s election year with balloting to begin in a matter of months.  Political office wannabes will be trying to convince the electorate to vote for them. Are voters ready to ask tough questions?  We will find out in November.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownla.com. You can also listen to his regular podcast at www.datelinelouisiana.com.



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