A Dollar and a Scheme

On the state government side alone, there is Lotto, Mega Millions, Power Ball, Take Five, Win 4 and more than 60 scratch-off games ranging from $1 to $20. They only make a profit for the state because people lose more than they win.

Then there are the racetrack casinos. The new Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack generated $57.5 million in revenue in May. From October 2011 until June 2012, the casino reportedly provided $252 million in taxes to the state.

Taxes are, of course, only a percent of the profits generated when gamblers lose more than they win.

The dream of winning a Mega Millions or Power Ball fortune is part of the fun, just like pulling a lever on a slot machine. But there is something troubling about the state and the casinos raking in billions each year from the guaranteed losses of gamblers.

Last week, state Sen. Tony Avella and state Assemblyman David Weprin said they found a solution for funding community groups that have been struggling financially since 2010, when the state executive branch eliminated discretionary funds legislators had used to fund programs in their districts.

Their solution is more gambling.

They are seeking support for legislation to create a new lottery scratch-off game with proceeds strictly dedicated to a new Community Grant Fund.

Standing on the steps of Borough Hall, Avella said, “Youth groups, senior centers, cultural organizations and Little Leagues provide essential services and rely on discretionary funding to survive …. With declining sources of funding, these groups need a dedicated Community Grant Fund.”

Avella cited the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Community Center and other organizations as organizations that would benefit from the new lottery scratch-off.

But the legislators did not explain who will make the tough decision about dividing the funds. If the local senators and assembly members do, we are right back to discretionary funds.

The Community Grant Fund may be a good idea, but we wonder whether the state should be encouraging even more gambling when dreams of cashing in on a big jackpot are all that some residents have.

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