As if Utah didn’t have enough dirty little secrets, it has been revealed that Utah has legalized gambling. At least, in certain forms. Now the law clearly states that gambling in any form is strictly forbidden in Utah, but the recent election in Parowan flies in the face of the law. They didn’t even attempt to conceal the activity; in fact they did it in front of TV cameras.nn
The stakes: a seat on the Parowan City Council. The means of determining who gets the spoils: the toss of a Susan B. Anthony dollar coin. The gamblers were Jess Askeroth and Dale Bettridge. Now Parowan is not known as a hotbed of gambling: no casinos, bingo parlors, poker pavilions or card rooms of any kind. I doubt they even engage in cow-pie bingo to raise money for the high school band uniforms or anything else.nn
What took place should be investigated by our hyperactive Attorney General Mark (I never sleep because crime never sleeps) Shurtleff. The attorney general is the Eliot Ness of Utah, taking on everything from polygamy, fruity low-alcohol drinks that young women can’t seem to resist, smoking by actors in movies, illegal aliens, legal aliens, space aliens and cattle rustling.nn
Getting back to the great gambling caper of Parowan, how can something as valuable and important as a seat in city government be reduced to a game of chance? What is the difference between flipping a coin and putting that coin in a slot machine and pulling the handle? Gambling is defined as giving something of value in an effort of gaining something of value through a game of chance. What the two gamblers wagered was the cost of fliers and some signs and time to make some speeches. With the vote turning out to be a tie, instead of having a revote or taking it to the U.S. Supreme Court like George W. Bush and Al Gore did, they reduced the whole process to a game of chance.nn
What kind of message does this send to the children? Remember that is the cry used in every argument in Utah when logic and reason can’t be used to make a point. When all else fails, we hear the self-righteous scream, “Think of the children!” This excuse has been successfully used in arguments about locating state liquor stores and pubs, keeping the Utah lottery in Idaho, swimming or playing soccer on Sundays and approving the location of lingerie shops. The children were witness to gambling at the highest levels of government in Parowan. Will the children resort to coin flipping to see who gets on the bus first? Will they resort to gambling when gathering at parties or going to the movies? If a parent tries to admonish such behavior the children will point to City Councilman Bettridge and say, “but he did it.”nn
Come to think of it, maybe the entire country would have been better off if Bush and Gore had simply flipped a coin for the presidency. We would have had a 50-50 shot of having someone in the White House who knows how to pronounce “nuclear.nn
Tom Barberi is a talk show host on 97.5 FM TALK.