Legalizing Capone


Al Capone was an American gangster in the 1920’s and 30’s. Among the crimes that he committed was racketeering.

“A racket is an illegal business… Engaging in a racket is called racketeering. Several forms of racket exist… A well-known example is the numbers racket, a form of illegal lottery.” ( Wikipedia).

Although he was never successfully convicted of racketeering charges, Capone’s criminal career ended in 1931, when he was indicted and convicted by the federal government for income-tax evasion. This conviction was however, just a way to find Capone guilty of far grosser crimes, including “running the numbers”, or illegal lottery. Today most states have legalized lotteries, or as I like to say, they have “legalized Capone”.

Here in Maryland “legalizing Capone” came about in the mid 1970’s. According to the state, more that 1.6 billion dollars in revenue was generated in 2008. Over the years I have observed that those least able to spend money on “legalized Caponing” are the ones most likely to do so. The allure of “easy money” is a temptation too great for most on the edge of financial security. I have heard a number of times from people how they have won, $100, $200, $500, or even $1000 dollars. The interesting thing is that almost all have spent more money on tickets over time than their “win”, but somehow they seem to rejoice in their “new-found” money. Gambling, like all other addictions is starting to become, not only acceptable, but also part of the fabric of our society. It is a habit that can destroy individuals and families. President Gordon B. Hinckley warned us just a few years ago when he said:

“Gambling is to be found almost everywhere and is growing. People play poker. They bet on horse races and dog races. They play roulette and work the slot machines. They gather to play in bars, saloons, and casinos, and, all too often, in their own homes. Many cannot leave it alone. It becomes addictive. In so many cases it leads to other destructive habits and practices. And so very many of those who become involved cannot afford the money it takes. In many cases it robs wives and children of financial security…We now have state lotteries on a very large-scale. Once the law almost universally prohibited them. Now they are operated as a means of gaining revenue.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Gambling,” Liahona, May 2005, 58–61)

President Hinckley further stated:

“The pursuit of a game of chance may seem like harmless fun. But there attaches to it an intensity that actually shows on the faces of those who are playing. And in all too many cases this practice, which appears innocent, can lead to an actual addiction. The Church has been and is now opposed to this practice. If you have never been involved in poker games or other forms of gambling, don’t start. If you are involved, then quit now while you can do so.”

If Al Capone were alive today, he would be quite comfortable in a meeting with the governors of our states,  because they now make it easy for someone to develop the habit of gambling.  And make no mistake about it, like most addictions, you are in its grasp before you discover, or want to admit,  that you have a problem.  The powers that be can use all the rationalization they want in regards to promoting this destructive habit, but it doesn’t change the warnings that are coming from the prophets to “stay away”. President Hinckley said it best: “Don’t start!”


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