A Stacked Deck

The Ethics of Making Laws About Gambling

Making laws about gambling brings into focus some of the most troubling flaws in our representative democracy. Those who have money and access will be heard, and those who stand to lose much may never be noticed. This essay begins with a look at two families. The first family lost a lifetime of retirement savings through gambling. The second family, through actions as a lawmaker and lawyer, made attempts to lessen the impact of gambling, but with little success. The essay then provides a close-up view of the lawmaking process and its flaws, particularly in relation to campaign finance. As money drives the continuous campaign season, lawmakers have a finely tuned ear for the concerns of the wealthy, and much less incentive to understand those with fewer resources. Finally, the essay examines representative democracy theory and how, even within the context of Citizens United v. FEC, we can take steps toward better representation of those who so often are ignored.

a. Sheila Simon teaches at the Southern Illinois University School of Law in Carbondale, Illinois. Thanks to my colleagues at SIU, professors Jenifer Brobst, John Erbes, Mark Brittingham and John Jackson.

The full text of this Symposium is available to download as a PDF.