Roll the Dice on Federal Budget Woes

By Seltzer, Joan | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), July 29, 1996 | Go to article overview

Roll the Dice on Federal Budget Woes


Seltzer, Joan, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Americans are tired of hearing elected leaders in Washington talk about impending financial doom. A viable solution for some of these problems is Casino U.S.A. - a federally run or franchised casino operation.

States that have opted for casino gambling should be obliged to include Casino U.S.A. Revenues obtained would be strictly voluntary, as gamblers exercise free will in choosing this pastime. Tax-free revenue bonds could be offered in gaming states to underwrite the costs of construction.

A 1994 survey commissioned by Promus Cos., the most diverse U.S. casino operator, found that 59 percent of adults see casino gambling as acceptable for themselves and others.

Gambling has grown to a $407 billion industry. Several state and local governments use revenues from legalized gambling to support schools and infrastructure. Churches also participate. Casinos are the biggest money makers. More than 500 casinos cropped up in the United States in the 1990s. In 1994, casinos in 27 states provided 1 million jobs and brought in $40 billion in annual revenues.

More Americans spent time in casinos in 1994 than attended all major league baseball and National Football League games. With casinos patronized by 125 million Americans, gambling in the United States is rapidly becoming the entertainment pastime of choice.

Casino U.S.A. could make winners of us all. The casino take could be earmarked for federal programs currently in jeopardy.

Medicare celebrated its 30th birthday last July. At its inception, it was heralded as historic and fiscally responsible. Today, Medicare is essentially bankrupt. In 1965, when Medicare was enacted, there were almost six workers to every retiree. Today, there are four. By 2030, there will be only two.

An article by John Liu, a health-care policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, stated that to bring the program into balance for the short term, an additional 1.3 percent payroll tax would need to be added to the current 2.9 percent Medicare payroll tax. To achieve long-term balance, a payroll tax of 3.52 percent would need to be levied on top of today's rate.

A May 20 commentary in Newsweek stated that in 1995, Social Security and Medicare costs reached $513 billion. The portion of the federal budget jointly spent on Social Security and Medicare is at an all-time high of 40 percent. …

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