A Dialogue on Predatory Gambling for New York State
Q You say that 1.4% of adults are gambling addicts and another 2.6% ,problem gamblers. I accept that this 4% are out of control, are a drawdown on society. Yet 4% is not a lot. Why should the other 96% be kept from doing something they can control ?
R Defeat of the “casino amendment” in November would not deprive that 96% of access to legalized predatory gambling. New Yorkers, as the Governor said last year.
are surrounded by it. There are thousands of Lottery outlets, more than a dozen “racinos” (which the Governor said in his May 9 2013 press conference are basically casinos) and five class III tribal casinos with table games staffed by humans. Nearby states are flush with casinos or about to build them.
Q But many gamblers want full-fledged casinos. That’s why people say parking lots at casinos in nearby states are full of cars and buses from NY. The hidden costs those visitors rack up are externalized (“charged to”) NY society, yet all of the money left behind stays in other states as casino profits and taxes on gaming revenue. If NYS is to get a piece of the action on its own residents and “own” tourists, give us new casinos in-state.
R If new casinos in NYS could recapture 100% of the traffic now going out-of -state without creating new gambling addicts or problem gambler, NYS would have less net loss from gambling than now. It would still not be near break-even. Worse, convenient casinos will create gambling addicts and problem gamblers. The recapture solution to out- of-state travel then becomes part of the problem.
Q You are a prohibitionist.
R Not really. Opponents of the gambling amendment are not trying in 2013 to close every gambling joint in the state. We just want to make access to casinos for NYS residents and visitors no easier than it is now.
Q Come on! You want to deny 100% of New Yorkers a benefit because 4% can’t take care of themselves. That’s letting the tail wag the dog!
R The dark side of convenience is the unavoidable creation of new addicts and problem gamblers. How strong the effect is across all settings cannot be reliably stated. Intuition says that a single casino set in a metropolis previously casino-free will create more problem gamblers than a similar one new to a rural area in which there is already a casino 30 miles away. Twice as many? Five times? Ten times? No one can say.
Q OK. NYS would add some more gambling addicts; we already have 170,000, What’s a few more?
Q “Few” may be thousands, and none of them “is an island entire of itself.*” The evil of predatory gambling is not just torment to the problem gamblers whom the cartel exploits for high profit; it is the damage to innocent people who trust them – spouses and domestic partners, children, parents, siblings, other relatives, neighbors, business associates, financial institutions like banks, credit unions or insurance agencies. For every problem gambler there are seventeen other parties affected, wrote Politzer et al ** , citing Lesieur. They are never affected to the good. Those who condone predatory gambling consider expendable — worthless — everyone in the circle of misery around a problem gambler. That is a lot of people in this state: millions. A society cannot allow this and be just or even pretend to be.
*John Donne, Meditation 17 (1624)
** Politzer Robert M. et al. The Epidemiologic Model and the Risk of Legalized Gambling: Where Are We Headed? Health Values (1992) vol. 16 no. 2: 20-27.
Woman with Dead Child, etching by Kathe Kollwitz, is owned by the National Gallery of Art. This image is in the public domain.
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