A classic example of audacity is the man who kills his parents and asks for clemency on the grounds that he’s an orphan. A few weeks ago, a California gambler who lost a bundle online joined a lawsuit against search engines that sell advertising for Internet gambling sites.

The case, filed in state court in San Francisco, is just one example of our society’s utterly inconsistent and hypocritical treatment of gambling. We love it, we hate it, we use it, and we are being wounded by it.

I would never suggest banning it. Yet I’m puzzled by people who gamble online or offline, because they’re usually working against stacked odds. Over time, they’re likely to lose. Still, we allow many potentially harmful activities, on the principle that freedom means the freedom to make mistakes.

The damage gambling causes to our society is not so fine with me. Addicted gamblers can’t stop throwing their money away, and their families — and the rest of us — pay a price for that. (And please don’t let the industry get away with calling this activity “gaming” — that’s a PR-word trick we should reject.)

An even more troubling addiction is the governmental one. State governments have come to need the money that gambling spins off, and they’re happy to sacrifice people and communities that bear the real burden.

States like California ban or strictly control privately sponsored gambling. Then they turn around and run a numbers racket called a state lottery.

The advertising for these things is some of the sleaziest flackery around. It entices people — mostly from lower-income groups — to bet money they can’t afford to lose, against almost impossibly long odds.

More here.