Opinion: Let’s go all in

Gov. Mike Easley renewed his flirtation with an “education lottery” during his State of the State address Monday, but the feeling here is that he’s chasing the wrong form of gambling.

Easley’s main argument in favor of a North Carolina lottery is essentially a case of peer pressure: Everybody else (Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina) is doing it, and it will make us feel good if we join in the fun.

But lotteries aren’t a growing revenue source. North Carolina would recapture the money now spent in neighboring states, but in subsequent years our lottery sales would likely be flat.

Instead of the defensive move of copying our neighbors, we suggest that Easley try an innovative, rapidly growing side of gambling: online poker.

As long as we’re going to jump into the sin trade, let’s do it bigger and better than anyone else and become the first state to run an online casino like Pokerstars.com.

To keep Easley’s hands clean and bring the whole sin thing full circle, we could have Golden LEAF, the economic development foundation funded by the tobacco settlement, use some of its spare cash to invest in a poker site based somewhere in the Caribbean. The site could offer a sign-up bonus to North Carolina residents to keep their money flowing into our state’s coffers instead of out-of-state lotteries.

Online poker provides far more entertainment than a lottery, involves much more skill, allows you to lose your money without leaving your home or even getting dressed, and offers a faint hope of appearing on ESPN for those of us too short, slow and untalented to make it to the big time in a real sport. When’s the last time you watched hours of pulse-pounding lottery action?

OK, we don’t expect TarHeelHoldEm.com to open any time soon, but it’s a better idea than Easley’s education lottery.