This seemingly endless racket about gambling, the prospect of an online version of the Satanic vice the latest of what many frightened souls believe to be a scary intrusion into our mundane lives, brought to the most immediate headline life by Danny Williams’ sermon on its dastardly repercussions, always seems to provoke relatively simplistic, knee-jerk over-reactions in this province.
And a fair amount of hypocrisy, as well, especially when the condemnation is delivered from government pulpits occupied by the same preachers who already allow millions to pour into the public coffers from other forms of gambling and the sale of liquor.
The power of perspective
The premier’s denunciation of any proposal to introduce online games of chance to Newfoundland is interesting from, well, from a couple of “perspectives,” to utilize that word the premier manages to include in every second sentence, a subliminal way of downplaying his authoritarian personality. (“From my perspective, he’s a blah, blah, blah” — in other words, it’s just his opinion, nothing more, nothing less. Sure it is.)
And the thumbs-down to on-line gambling is a palpable example of what happens when one person is running the affairs of our “happy province” — the premier, who rules with an iron fist despite his denials, is offering anything but his “perspective” or opinion when he speaks publicly about any issue under the sun.
When he speaks, it is the government speaking.
What he says is gospel.
Cue the sheep
Williams can try and create an illusion that cabinet will be the ultimate decision-maker (there was a huge chuckle echoing throughout the province when the premier talked of the voting power of his ministers), because if the premier wants something to happen, it’s going to happen.
All the sheep in the cabinet will “Baaaa” their way into submission and agreement after their shepherd lets them know the way in which they will vote, what his “perspective” (and therefore their “perspective”) is on gambling, or, for that matter, any other issue they might have reason to ponder and “debate” (the latter a misnomer when describing the activities of the Tory caucus and cabinet).
Fear and trembling
Can you imagine some pipsqueak of a minister daring to wonder aloud to the premier during these kinds of deliberations whether they should consider the hypocrisy of condemning one form of gambling because of the horrendous impact it has on the families of addicts, while continuing to rake in a fortune from lottery numbers, VLTs and anything else it has OKed?
Or another minister, desperate to keep his or her job, asking whether it’s two-faced to derive a mint from booze, something that certainly seems to wreak more havoc on families in Newfoundland and create much more of a burden on our health system than gambling ever could?
Nosiree. The premier has spoken. His decree has been issued.
There’ll be no second sober thought given to such matters.
One person (unless there’s a drastic change of heart) will basically decide for 500,000 (the vast, vast majority of whom will never develop a gambling problem) that on-line games of chance are a sin, a disaster for all. The gambling mores of an entire population will be heavily influenced, if not dictated, by one person.
If government insists on telling us what is bad for our mental health, and decides not to get involved in online gambling, then it should exit totally from the VLT and lottery business.
It shouldn’t be involved in the sale of booze.
It should be consistent.
If it’s families and innocent people they’re worried about, the Williams government should pour its involvement in the sale of liquor down the drain. Bring back the vouchers for liquor. Bring in prohibition.
If Danny is going to eliminate any vices he’s decided will cause problems in society, like online gambling, then out go liquor, bingo, the chance at winning a $500,000 house, a dozen beer a week, and any taxes derived from such devilish ways.
Obviously, I’m being facetious about foolish bans of that nature. They never prove to be worth a damn. And they’re counter-productive to boot.
From my “perspective” it’s all a bit difficult to digest.
Except, as I say, as a fine illustration of one-man governance.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.