One of my favorite television shows of the past is the Andy Griffith Show. Andy, Barney, Opie and the gang brought many laughs to our home. Perhaps my favorite character was Gomer. He later had his own show as a pure, but constant, goof-up private in the Marine Corps.
Gomer often used the phrase, “Surprise! Surprise!” Well, I think if Gomer had listened to radio or television news or read the newspapers concerning the Oklahoma Lottery and education funding, he would have used his favorite line, tongue in cheek-“Surprise! Surprise!”
“Surprise! Surprise!” The Oklahoma Lottery has fallen significantly short of projected revenue. Instead of the over-inflated $300 million promised, the amount has been less than $90 million. Promises made have not been kept. Sorry, but we told you so. There is no way Oklahoma would take in $300 million a year. The promise was smoke and mirrors.
With the lottery has come the proliferation of casino gambling. Indian tribes are building a casino at every major entry point to our state and seemingly at every intersection. Some may argue that we are throwing sour grapes because the casinos are full. It would seem that if something is a success, then it must be OK. As an old rock song queries, “if it feels so right, how can it be so wrong?”
I stand amazed that we continue to look to gambling to solve our revenue problems. Gambling is about taking, not giving. For one person to reap gambling revenue and winnings someone else has to lose. No goods or services are gained by the loser. No benefit provided. Just loss.
The commercials are always fascinating. They make the casinos and lottery players look like they are on top of the world. Why don’t the cameras follow home some of the people who gamble away their paychecks and can’t buy food or pay the rent, and take the picture when they tell their families? Or why not video those who lose their jobs because of a gambling habit? Perhaps a commercial could be made of an elderly person after losing his or her life savings through gambling. Not going to happen! Surprise! Surprise!
It is sad that we are gambling with our kids’ education. The lottery was a bad idea before it was implemented, and it is still a bad idea. We were told it would not proliferate or expand gambling in Oklahoma, but it most certainly has. In the end, it has fallen short of every promise. Surprise! Surprise!
Our children need improved education, and teachers need better salaries. Politicians and voters just tied children’s and teachers’ future to the wrong wagon. Maybe it’s time to take seriously our responsibility to prepare budgets based on reality. Our children’s future education does not need to be gambled with! We said it during the political battle and we will say it again: Gambling is wrong. It was wrong then, and it is wrong now.