Gambling Casinos: A Plague on Society
Gamblers no longer need to trek to Las Vegas or Atlantic City to find the action they so badly crave. It is available today in their own hometowns. Legalized gambling is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. Gambling’s tremendous popularity is evident in the recent increase in the number of off-track betting parlors (OTB’s) and riverboat casinos that dot the midwest and the Mississippi Delta. Billboards on major highways depict the action and excitement available at such facilities.
For most of the industry’s patrons, gambling is fun and a form of harmless entertainment. For the four to six percent of gamblers who become problem or pathological (compulsive) gamblers, however, it can be a devastating illness that negatively affects every aspect of their lives. I’m worried that the more legalized gambling ?havens? that open up, the more problems we can expect as a result of them.
The greatest social cost of legalized gambling is the probable increase in problem and pathological gambling. In Connecticut for example, the Foxwoods Resort Casino opened up in 1995 and the number of pathological gamblers sky-rocketed. In 1994, there were 235 calls to the Gambling Anonymous hotline and in 1995 (after the casino opened), there were 588. In 1997, the state of Connecticut also launched a massive media campaign for community awareness of the social problem and encourage to get help for people with gambling addictions because at least 70,000 adults in Connecticut have gambling problems.
Pathological gambling is a progressive disease that devastates not only the gambler, but everyone with whom he or she has a significant relationship. In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association accepted pathological gambling as a ?disorder of impulse control ?. It is an illness that is chronic and progressive, but it can be diagnosed and treated. Some of the costs are: physical and psychological stress, significant increase of substance and alcohol abuse, major depressive disorders and attempted suicide.
The gambling addict is basically a ?slave? to the habit. He needs the stimulation that winning money creates and this possibility keeps him going. The underlining problem is a self-image of himself as a failure and this destroys his self esteem. Many of them have been laid off work or ousted from a relationship and gambling tends to distract one from thinking about one’s failures.
Besides the negative effects that gambling can have directly on an individual, there are overwhelming economic and social costs of widespread casino gaming that many states (particularly the ones which allow legalized gambling) have to deal with. In 1996, Professors William N. Thompson and Ricardo C. Gazel of the University of Nevada Las Vegas conducted a BGA (Better Government Association) study on the effects of riverboat gambling on the state of Illinois. Thompson and Gazel found that the social costs of one pathological gambler is $10,000 a year, this includes the economic cost of debt, insurance, crime, incarceration, and clinical treatment.
In Wisconsin, Thompson and Gazel did a study of Indian gaming, and they concluded that there was no net economic impact- none whatsoever. Thompson said: ?All that was happening was poor people- the players, were losing their money, the poorer players- the Indians?. They’re paying your taxes?. ?With local players instead of new tourists, Thompson says, there is very little, if any, job creation; gambling simply initiates a massive transfer of money from the owners of local business to the owners of casinos.
Because they haven’t been around long enough, no one knows yet what the impacts of Indian gaming will be. ?The only thing that I would say in respect to the people living where Indian gaming is legal, is that you’re rolling the dice with the quality of life,? Thompson said. Ten years from now, he predicts, somebody will do a study and realize the real economic and social impacts of gaming. Another big concern for the future is video gaming, which many local businesses want to compete with casinos. Thompson calls video gaming the ?crack cocaine? of gambling. ?Be careful of wide-open video poker all over the place,? he warns. ?You could really screw this place up.?
Gambling is a big business in America. Gambling is a three hundred billion dollar business to be exact, netting the gaming industry thirty billion dollars in net revenue annually.
Seventy years ago it was illegal to gamble anywhere in the United States. Our parents grew up thinking that gambling was morally wrong, but our children are growing up thinking that gambling is as easy as going to McDonald’s. Today, thirty-six states have lotteries, ten states allow casinos, and twenty-five states permit Indian gaming. It’s getting bigger all the time. For the first time in history, gambling is available close to home. People can walk to and from work and gamble. State governments actually encourage their citizens to gamble because it seems like an easy way to collect tax free money.
Authorities and experts who have studied these issues have clearly documented the problems presented by gambling casinos. It seems that no one really benefits from gambling establishments, while many, many people are hurt or negatively affected. With all of the bad outweighing the good, I think it’s time that gambling casinos become a thing of the past