Cornfields and Dreamfields

The New Bridge

The New Bridge

 

States of the States in Casinoland: Cornfields  and  Dreamfields

Summary:  An overview of casino spread in the United States                                             (1) Looks at locations and fiscal markers of “cornfield casinos” in Iowa, a thinly-populated state that  has  eighteen commercial casinos and two Indian ones.                                       (2) Discusses likely rationales for two sites proposed for new casinos in Iowa.                (3) A table using  figures from  the American Gaming Association web site  compares  year-2012 fiscal data for commercial casinos or racetrack electronic gaming devices  among all  twenty-three states that have either or both.  States can be ranked on  characteristics such as “win per capita” or taxes paid to government.  

Talking with someone from a very small city in NY (pop 900)   proposed as casino site,  I  remarked  naively that it must be unique in the country in being a truly rural community into which a commercial casino might come. I had thought all commercial casinos are in suburbs,  exurbs or fair-sized towns when  not in big cities.  Iowa then came to mind as predominantly rural but with commercial casinos.

A look at that state surprised me.  Iowa has fifteen commercial casinos classed  as “riverboats,”  three tracks with electronic gambling devices (EGDs)  and two Indian casinos.   It is hard to understand how the state could support so many; yet it is  considering two more.    This count led me  to compare Iowa to other states as to number, size and locations of casinos.  Two questions arose:  (1) were  impacts on small rural communities  assessed  in any way by  independent studies?  (2) how  did landlocked rural casinos fare financially compared to ones at riverside  or more urban settings?

Question 1 is a rapid dead end. No.  Question 2 opened a window on the United States as casinoland that this essay props wide.

To imagine from  the Iowa experience what a very small rural community in upstate NY might expect from a casino’s arrival,   I picked  four  similar locales in Iowa that now have casinos and one (Jefferson, in Green County) for which a casino is proposed.  Click here for a map.    Four locales were chosen by developers.  One, in Tama (Tama County),  is Indian-operated and was thus not free to roam.  Because it is a small “city” like the other four  and evidently  a test case for new competition while Iowa plans  more  casinos,  I included Tama.

Emmetsburg, pop 3900,  is home since 2006 to the Wild Rose Casino (550 slots,  17 table games, or TGs).   The casino is right in town on (literally)  Main Street,  US Rte 18,  which crosses the state.  Emmetsburg is the County Seat of Palo Alto County,  with a population  density of 16.5/sq mile it ranks 84th out of 99 in the state (Iowa pop. density is about 54/sq mi).  The town’s web site shows merited civic pride in history.    A report by a consulting group  in 2009 commented that there are no communities of much size nearby,  though Highway 18 eases travel.  The report stated that win/admission ratio (“win” means “gaming revenue”  of course)  and gaming revenue in first two full years were below most other markets in Iowa.  This is still true through FY 2013.

Northwood, pop 1989,  hosts  the Diamond Jo Worth casino  with 1000 slots and 32 TGs.  The casino is right off  I-35,  ( 9 mi west of the center of town)  about 25 mi south of  I-90 as it traverses southern Minnesota.   Click here for  Christmas Greetings from the casino in  2009.   Worth County ,  with population  density of 18.9 / sq mi,  ranks 76th in the state.   The  report by a consulting group in 2009 remarked that  the casino’s nearness to I-35 brought Mason City  into its reach at the time.  In its first two years the casino had an   “win”/admission ratio  and adjusted gross gambling revenues that outdid the state average.

Larchwood (pop.  866) is the city in Iowa most remote from  the capital, Des Moines.  Lyon County ranks 75th in state in pop density,  at 19.7.  In the northwest corner of Iowa,  Larchwood  saw in 2011 the rapid   opening of the Grand Falls casino,  which cost $120 million and offers   900 slots.  Tables games are now up to thirty-seven. This casino was obviously sited to capture Sioux Falls, South Dakota,  the largest city in that state.  A website blurb says it’s just eight minutes from Sioux Falls.  Actually eight miles from the extreme eastern side,  it is  more like 15 mi and 25 minutes from the center of the city.  The manager of the Grand Falls casino   told a reporter that she expected  an annual revenue of $70 million,  with 80%  to come from out-of-staters.

South Dakota  on the AGA listing ( see table below ) has thirty-five (35) “casinos”  but total “gaming” revenue is only $107M with revenue to state only $ 16.6M.  [Note well: these data may be wrong, but are copied correctly from the web site.]  I did not research the  state  in detail but would guess that many  of the “casinos” are like Borrowed Buck’s Roadhouse, the only “casino” in Sioux Falls that shows on a commercial website map  It has ten (10)  VLTs, pool tables and foosball.  South Dakota had decided,  upon legalizing casinos,  to put all its  real commercial casinos in one town,  Deadwood, almost 400 miles from Sioux Falls.   Since 1989 S. D. has had video lottery.  In FY 2013 an average of 9133 machines operated in the state in an average of 1426 establishments.  The nearest real casino to S.F. is an Indian one at Flandreau, 44 miles away.   A casino in nearer-by Larchwood was supposed to appeal to people in Sioux Falls who want live table games and lots of slots.

In Larchwood  gaming revenue has not reached the anticipated 70 M .   At 59 M for 2012 it was in the red $ 4.8 million.  Adjusted gross revenue in 2013 was $58 million, and the “win”/capita $46 in FY 2013, below the state average.  It may be that Sioux Falls gamblers find the convenient VLTs in town surpass the call of the casino.

These three active commercial casinos can be compared in the table to the fifteen “riverboat” casinos in Iowa, which includes them.  Data are for FY 2013   Some figures are rounded-off.

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The Crying of Prop. 1, 2013

The Crying of Prop. 1

Stephen Q. Shafer, M.D., M.A. , M.P.H.

Chairperson, Coalition Against Gambling in New York

 

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Summary Social costs due to  increased  problem gambling after  “up to seven” new casinos open in New York State will almost certainly exceed revenues from the State’s taxing new casinos.  These costs are real but externalized,  thus easily hidden or denied.  Just a 10% increase in the statewide prevalence of problem gambling would almost wipe out the gains in revenue to the State treasury and create thousands more gambling addicts than “permanent good jobs.”   A  25%  increase would nearly negate the entire sum ($1.2 billion)  targeted for recovery via in-state casinos.  In their quest for revenue without increases in conventional taxes,  state officials implied by silence  that  the number of  new problem gamblers anticipated either cannot be estimated or need not be. It is a nullity, off  the board.

No public policy can be evaluated properly without considering costs. Yet that’s what happened in the legislature and on the campaign trail.  This paper gives a public health physician’s   viewpoint of  the dishonesty in marketing “Proposal 1” right into the polling booth.

Introduction  The victorious campaign to legalize casinos in New York State  played up  hoped-for benefits and  played down  likely costs.  While conceding when pressed that problem gambling is a problem, promoters never  acknowledged  the flip side to making casinos more convenient to New Yorkers.  This step, to become law on January 1,  will (not might, will) create new addicted gamblers and new problem gamblers as well as service current ones.  Costs quite possibly in the hundreds of millions of dollars per year  will extend  to society from this sector.

Neither government nor business interests have made public any consideration whatsoever of   these costs.  The deliberate silence moved me, as a physician trained in public health, to compare these costs to the much-publicized  benefits.  I focused on a narrow question:  will the inflow of casino money to the State Treasury equal or outweigh the costs of the new casinos, externalized to New York’s people?  This is only one type of benefit, only one category of costs.

Analysis   What inflow is expected?    Proposal 1 promoters  have repeatedly said that gamblers from  NY  “spend”  $ 1.2 billion / yr  at  casinos in adjoining states and Canada.  [1]   The basis for this figure is not known to me.  In 2012 patrons from NY left behind at the two Indian casinos in Connecticut $259 million. [2]   Presumably the other billion was left behind in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Canada.  If this amount were lost in NYS  instead of elsewhere,  taxing it at the rates in Table 1  would yield to the State treasury the following amounts:.

 

                                                       Abbreviations used in the textNYS     New York StateQSEC   Quantifiable Socio-Economic Costs

 

Table 1.  Division of  $1.2 billion  “spent”  in out-of –NYS  casinos between State Treasury and  casino  ownership if all  $1.2 billion were kept in NYS.

Tax rate     State Treasury                Owners

$ millions               $ millions

20%                   240                            960

25%                   300                            900

30%                   360                            840

35%                   420                            780

40%                   480                            720

45%                   540                            660

At  30%  (reasonable guesstimate for NYS non-tribal casinos with 70% slots 30% other), the State Treasury would gain $360 million.  This is not the only possible benefit to the state, but is the most easily measured and the most talked-about, as in  “educating our children,” “property tax relief.”

Now to costs:   the principal (but far from the only) cost of “up to seven” casinos is the creation of new addicted and problem gamblers through a “distance  effect. ”     For a brief review of the literature, see pages 2-4 of a Dec 2012 paper which looked at the hypothetical scenario of five new casinos in New York City   [3]

The entry of  new gamblers during a specified time (incidence) into a category like “addicted”  is not well  measured by the prevalence (proportion active at a given time) [4].  This is because individuals leave the active prevalence pool over time through recovery, death, imprisonment, totally disabling illness or out-migration.  As hard as it is to measure the  prevalence of problem gambling,  it is far harder to measure incidence. Thus prevalence, fraught with methodological problems,  is the usual benchmark.

To assess costs of new addicted gamblers and problem gamblers we need  head counts and  per-head figures for cost.  The cost figures cited most often are from Earl L. Grinols, Distinguished Professor of Economics at Baylor. His book shows clearly how he came to them. [5]   I call these Quantifiable Socioeconomic Costs  (abbrev. QSEC), though Grinols does not use that term.  In  2012 dollars  QSEC  are $13787 / yr  per pathological (addicted ) gambler; those per problem Gambler are $3600 /yr .  Note well:  QSEC do not include suicide, divorce,  mental anguish, family disruption.  The costs of   these calamities are un-quantifiable; no monetary values can be assigned.  Thus they are even easier to disregard than QSEC.

Regarding the head count: the number of active addicted gamblers in NYS can be estimated by applying to a rounded-off figure of 15 million adults statistics for prevalence among adults of addicted (1.14%) and of problem gamblers (2.8%).  These are not recent but are well-established from a meta-analysis. [6]   In a national sample reported in 2004 [7] the prevalence of pathological and problem gamblers combined was 3.5% .

If at baseline there are 171,000 active addicted gamblers (15 million * 1.14%) and prevalence goes  up  by 5%, NYS  has  at least 9,000 new addicts.  Table 2 shows the number of new cases for a given increment in prevalence,  and the QSEC attached.  Table 3 works the same way for problem gamblers.  Table 4 combines the QSEC  for both types, arrayed by % increase.

Table 2.  Number of  new addicted  gamblers in NYS and Quantifiable Socioeconomic Costs of new addicted gamblers, by increase in prevalence  over baseline.  e.g. 9,000 * $13,787 /yr = $ 124 million/yr

Increase                       New addicted  gamblers   QSEC of increase in $ millions/yr

5%                                             9,000                         124

10%                                         17,000                         234

15%                                         26,000                         358

20%                                         34,000                         469

25%                                         43,000                         593

30%                                         51,000                         703

Table 3.  Number of new problem gamblers in NYS and Quantifiable Socioeconomic Costs of new problem gamblers, by increase in prevalence  over baseline. e.g. 21,000 * $3,600 /yr = $ 76 million/yr

Increase                       New  problem  gamblers   QSEC of increase in $ millions/yr

5%                                           21,000                         76

10%                                         42,000                         151

15%                                         63,000                         227

20%                                         84,000                         302

25%                                       105,000                         378

30%                                       126,000                         454

Table 4.  Quantifiable Socioeconomic Costs of new addicted  gamblers + new problem gamblers by increase in prevalence  over baseline.  e.g. for 5% increase in both,  total is $124 + $76 = $200 million/year.

Increase                       QSEC of increase, in $ millions/yr

5%                                           200

10%                                         385

15%                                         585

20%                                         771

25%                                         971

30%                                       1157

From Table 4 we see that if prevalence of addictive gambling and of problem gambling both  rise by only 10%, the QSEC attached to that rise are more than the $360 million the State would recover by taxing 1.2 billion at 30%.

We must consider, though, that persons who became gamblers because of the convenient casinos (some addicted,  some  problem gamblers, most in neither type) will also lose money there  that can be taxed.  How much might that add to State treasury  revenue?  Would that be enough to “cover” the QSEC springing from new casinos?  To answer that we need an estimate for  losses by type of gambler.

Grinols and Omorov in a 1996 paper [7]  estimated annual losses to casinos by persons living within 35 miles of  Las Vegas or Atlantic City  at $14,200/year (1992 dollars)  per one hundred  persons.    This includes people who do not go to a casino from one year to the next.  Converting to 2012 dollars gives   $ 23, 400 per 100 persons.  This figure was used in my Dec 2012 paper to reckon that losses to casinos by the 8 million residents of Greater New York came to $1.87 billion/year. I assumed that all losses were to casinos outside the reach of NYS taxation.   If  $23, 400 were applied to the entire NYS population it would mean that losses to casinos come to  $3.5 billion /year,  three times higher that of the commonly-cited  estimate of 1.2 billion /year.  Assuming that  $ 1.2 billion for the whole state is correct, a likely explanation is that since no resident of Greater NY  lives within 35 miles of a full-service casino,   the $23,400/100 persons/yr  figure was high; the longer distance lowers willingness to travel then spend.

$1.2 billion lost at out of state casinos by residents of NYS means that the average loss per year is $1.2 billion/15 million, or $8000/100 persons/year.  I took liberties with the famous table in Grinols and Omorow [8] , keeping the ratios of annual loss per gambler between types very much like those in the original but lowering the values so that the annual loss / 100 persons comes out to $8000, not $23,400.  The results in dollars of 1992 are in Table 5.

Table 5.  Hypothetical structure of casino revenues in 1992 dollars, by type of gambler   This table is formatted like the one in Grinols and Omorov [ref 8]  but the input values  in columns 1 and 3 have been altered, producing figures in column 4 very  different from those in the original.  Percentages in column 5 are similar to those in the original.

Prevalence in population

Type of gambler

Annual loss per gambler

Annual loss per 100 adults

Cumulative % of casino gross

1.14%

Addicted

1480

1687

35

2.8%

Problem

250

700

49

6.06%

Heavy bettor

118

715

64

50%

Light bettor

35

1750

100

40%

Non-bettor

0

0

100

100%

All types

 

4852

 

 

Converting  $4852 dollars of 1992 to $8006 dollars of 2012 gives the amount lost last year out of state /100 persons in population. For a population of 15 million the annual out of state loss is reckoned at $1.2 billion.  If new casinos caused no rise in prevalence of problem gambling AND stopped 100% of leakage,  this table could also represent the gamblers’ losses ( ~ = “gaming revenue”)  at casinos in New York after new casinos are at full steam.  Of this $1.2 billion the State Treasury gets  $360 million at 30% tax rate.

Leaving the baseline of  Table 5, consider the changes in  losses at casinos by gamblers after new casinos open in state,  assuming a 10% rise in prevalences of gambling addiction and problem gambling.  In Table 6,  note  new figures in column 1, same figures in column 3.  The annual loss to casinos rises, as does the revenue to the state treasury.

Table 6.  Hypothetical structure of casino revenues in 1992 dollars, by type of gambler, reflecting changes in relative frequencies of type in population due to new casinos    Assumption: compared to baseline there is a 10 % increase in prevalence of all types of gambler and a decrease in proportion of non-bettors from 40% at baseline to 34%.

Prevalence in population

Type of gambler

Annual loss per gambler

Annual loss per 100 adults

Cumulative % of casino gross

1.25%

Addicted

1480

1850

35

3.08%

Problem

250

770

49

6.7%

Heavy bettor

118

791

64

55%

Light bettor

35

1925

100

34%

Non-bettor

0

0

100

100%

All types

 

5336

 

 

 

Converting $5336 to dollars of 2012 gives $8804 / 100 adults/yr .  This, multiplied by 15 million adults,    yields $1.32 billion as the amount that would be lost by gamblers from New York at casinos in  New York after new casinos are built.  In this scenario the non-tribal New York casinos realize from the losses of  new gamblers an extra $120 million  ( = $1.32B – $1.2B) of which the State gets by taxation 30 % , or $ 36 million.

If  the prevalences of addicted gambling and problem gambling rise by 25% with new casinos, not just by 10%, the annual loss to casinos rises in proportion.  See Table 7.

Table 7.  Hypothetical structure of casino revenues in 1992 dollars, by type of gambler, reflecting changes in relative frequencies of type in population due to new casinos   Assumption: compared to baseline there is a 25% increase in prevalence of  all types of gambler  and a decrease in proportion of non-bettors from 40% at baseline to 29%.

Prevalence in population

Type of gambler

Annual loss per gambler

Annual loss per 100 adults

Cumulative % of casino gross

1.43%

Addicted

1480

2116

36

3.5%

Problem

250

875

51

7.8%

Heavy bettor

118

920

64

62.5%

Light bettor

35

2188

100

25%

Non-bettor

0

0

100

100%

All types

 

6099

 

Converting $6099 to dollars of 2012 gives $10063 / 100 adults/yr. This figure, multiplied by  15 million adults,  yields $1.51 billion as the amount that would be lost at New York casinos by New Yorkers.  Casinos take  in $310 million above baseline (=$1.51B – $1.2B) from the new gamblers, of  which  the State Treasury collects 30%  or $93 million above the baseline intake of $360 million.

Discussion The QSEC to New York society associated with generating 17,000 new addicted gamblers and 42,000 new problem gamblers (10% increase in prevalence of both) are  $385 million, very nearly as much as the revenue to the state ($396 M) from taxing the losses by established and new gamblers at its new casinos.    If the State attended to costs, not just to revenues,  it would see this barely breaks even. The QSEC to New York society associated with generating 43,000 new addicted gamblers and 105,000 new problem gamblers (25% increase in prevalence of both)  are  $971 million, more than twice as much  as much as the revenue to the state ($450 million) from taxing the losses by established and new gamblers at its new casinos. If the State paid attention to costs,  it would see a fiasco.  This $971 million quantifiable cost almost equals the total of  $1.2 billion supposedly at stake.

The advertisements run by NY JOBS NOW implied that every dollar of the 1.2 billion that is lost to a casino in New York rather than across a border will benefit New York.    One ostensible benefit,  outweighed by QSEC,  is tax revenue to be disbursed  back to the populace as “aid to education” or  “property tax relief.”  Another,  not touted so loudly,  might be  to keep the rest of the money within the state where  it will go to overhead and profits of businesses with structures in NYS..  Much of that overhead will, we presume, pass to persons now living in the state as wages and as property tax paid to municipalities (if no abatements).  This would be a benefit to the state.  In fairness and transparency, however,  it  must still be weighed against QSEC, which in the 25% increase scenario may equal or exceed it.   That leaves profit.  Is this a benefit to NYS?    The casino buildings  will be in our state.  Where will the profit-takers be?

It  is too early to know if any of the owners will be NY companies.  Front-running candidates as of  Nov 18  include  Foxwoods, a Connecticut company;  Claremont Partners, “ a partnership of  mostly offshore investors based in the  Isle of Man;”  EPR Properties, based in Kansas City;  Empire Resorts, based in Kuala Lumpur; Concord Associates, New York; Muss Development, New York City; and Jeff  Gural, who lives in New York City.  RH Land Development has its New York State location in Rochester.  Traditions at the Glen Resort has one location, in Johnson City.    Vista Hospitality has its American offices in Binghamton. Caesar’s Entertainment, Las Vegas, is reported to be interested after having been dismissed in Massachusetts.  Rumor says the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe of Wisconsin is interested. A list like this will change week-to-week.

Conclusion It is sad indeed that voters were sold the amendment by being shown none of the debits, only the income.  In place of a cost-benefit analysis,  the electorate got the travesty of a benefit-only analysis.  New York State’s leaders and legislative followers sought  revenue at any cost, as long as the latter was out of sight.

Most of the debit side of the ledger springs from the formation of new gambling addicts and problem gamblers, creating a public health problem never recognized as such.  In a progressive state such as New York has been and should be, this would have been addressed by Health in All Policy.  HiAP is a fairly new concept, not the law of the land but gaining ground in North America (e.g. California and Ontario).  It came out of a 1998 resolution by the World Health Organization .  Basically, it requires that large – scale governmental policy have a health impact assessment before adoption.  New York State deliberately bypassed the responsibility to offer voters a traditional cost-benefit analysis of policy.  Just as deliberately the state passed up the challenge of  applying innovative HiAP.

It is impossible to predict exactly how many new problem gamblers will develop in the “up to seven casinos” future.  It is also impossible  that there will not be more of  them as our state gets more convenient casinos. Legislators hinted at the threat by putting some funding for treatment and prevention into the Upstate Gaming and Economic Development Act passed last June.  Then they withdrew attention.  No one in Albany made any estimate of the scope of the problem, thus zeroing it away.  If it has no size, it’s nothing.

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“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”     Lewis Carroll,   Through the Looking Glass

 

 

Afterword on prevalence Even if the prevalences of  addiction  and  problem gambling could be shown by a crystal ball to be absolutely stable over (say) four years following the introduction  of casinos, that first phase has created  new disordered gamblers.   Every year, some gambling addicts and problem gamblers leave the “active prevalence” pool  through  recovery, death,  imprisonment, disabling illness or out-migration. Suppose this rate is truly 10% a year;  after  four years,  prevalence of active addiction  that began at (say)  1.14% should be down to 0.75%.  If  it is not, “replacement addicts” have entered the pool,   Some are in-migrants, some relapses, many newly-minted.

 

Studies that purport to find no statistically significant increase in the prevalence of (say) problem gambling over time after exposure rises may also be underpowered.  A study to detect with reasonable statistical power a near-doubling of  prevalence from 1.14% to a prevalence of 2.17% would require 2000 interviews at each point.  This is impossibly expensive for a public agency to do.  A study to detect a 25% increase from 0.0114 to 0.0142 would require 20,000 interviews at each point.  The increase seems less than minuscule, yet in a population of 15 million it represents 43,000 new addicts.  No wonder the gambling promoters have no fear of someone’s proving an increase in the prevalence of addiction and thus no fear of being held responsible for any ominous trends.

References

  1. From the Home Page of  NY Jobs Now http://www.nyjobsnow.com/index.php#benefits

NEW JOBS. MONEY FOR SCHOOLS. LOWER PROPERTY TAXES.

New Yorkers currently spend more than $1.2 billion a year at destination casinos in neighboring states. Allowing casinos in New York will keep a lot of that money right here in New York where it belongs — helping to generate economic activity, fund our schools, and provide tax relief.

On the ballot this November, Proposal 1 will ask voters to approve the casino plan passed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature this spring.

2. Center for  Policy Analysis, University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth: New England Casino    Gaming Update 2013.  Economic Development series no. 74

3. Shafer, Stephen Q. New Commercial Casinos Will Mean Thousands of New Gambling Addicts  Dec. 2012  http://cagnyinf.org/wp/new-casinos-equal-1000s-of-gambling-addicts/

4. Shafer, Stephen Q.  Measure Something: Prevalence of Pathological and of Problem Gamblers. http://cagnyinf.org/wp/9_nov_2013_measure_prevalence/

5. Earl L. Grinols. Gambling in America Cambridge University Press 2004 pp. 171-174.

6. Shaffer HJ, Hall MN, Vander Bilt J. Estimated Disordered Gambling Behavior in the United States and Canada Report to National Gambling Impact Study Final Report 1999  https://divisiononaddictions.org/html/publications/meta.pdf

7.  Welte JW et al. The Relationship of Ecological and Geographic Factors to Gambling Behavior.  J. Gambling Studies ( 2004) 20: 405-442

8. Grinols EL and  Omorov  JD.  Development or Dreamfield Delusions? Assessing Casino Gambling’s Costs and Benefits.  J. Law and Commerce 1996-97, vol 16 p 59

The drawing is captured from Wikipedia.  Original by John Tenniel for  Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, by Lewis Carroll

photograph of buckets is by Kevin Krebs from clickr.com photos 8561188366_eda5d758cf_

The author retired in 2010 as Clinical Professor of Neurology at Harlem Hospital Center, Columbia University. He has an M.P.H. in Epidemiology and an M.A. in Political Science gained while (1976-78) a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar in the Department of Medicine,  Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons.  He is Chairperson of Coalition Against Gambling in New York,  a non-profit  registered in Buffalo.

Permission is hereby given to reproduce this post in whole or part as long as the permalink above is cited.

“Measure Something:” Prevalence of Pathological and of Problem Gamblers

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Most American adults gamble not at all (20-30%) or so little they get no damage from it. The gigantic social costs of legalized gambling move almost entirely through current “pathological gamblers,” who enmesh and drain their families, employers, employees and associates, and   through current “problem gamblers.”   Problem gamblers, more common,  impose each a smaller social cost. The two groups combined make up 4 % of the U.S. and Canadian adult (>18) population.1   Lower estimates for prevalence are also in the literature. 2, 3     CAGNY reports  use the 4% from the update of the Shaffer et al 1997 meta-analysis 4  as it is based on over a hundred studies, not a single survey.

Pathological gamblers (addicts) and problem gamblers combined generate almost all the costs of legalized gambling. Pathological (addicted) gamblers make up conservatively 1.14% of adults in North America; problem gamblers, at least 2.8%. In the U.S. that’s 2.5 million pathological gamblers (addicts) and 6.5 million problem gamblers.

Prevalence is not a good marker of the rate at which new cases occur. If it seems  stable over time, that does not mean no new  problem gamblers are forming. Not at all. To maintain the same prevalence of current pathological gambling, replacement pathological gamblers must  take the place of those who have recovered or died or disappeared.

Prevalence is usually given as the proportion (can be %) of a population that has the condition of interest (in this case a certain level of gambling) at a given moment or at some point in a time interval.  Prevalence can also be a count. It is not the same thing as incidence. Incidence is a rate,  the number of new cases in a time divided by the number at risk. It too can be correctly given as a count of cases.  Incidence, a rate,  must  be written per <time interval>  e.g  ” per year.”

Prevalence is governed by incidence  and  duration. Cases prevalent at a certain time will not be all the same ones as at a different time. Individuals leave the active ( = “past-year”) prevalence pool by out-migration, recovery, death, incarceration or disabling illness. New cases enter the pool. If prevalence, accurately measured,   is  steady over (say)  ten years,  that stability requires  replacement problem gamblers in the stead of those who died; or recovered (one estimate is that 1/3 recover 5 ); or went to jail (more than half of PGs commit prosecutable crimes); or moved to another country. The lifetime prevalence pool is depleted only by death or out-migration.

There are very few figures on incidence of pathological or problem gambling in adults, though in adolescents and college students these are available, and horrifying.  Estimates of incidence of pathological gambling in North American adults must be drawn from changes in prevalence, full of pitfalls. Rapid climbs in past-year or even lifetime prevalence imply relatively high incidence; rapid drops suggest high rates of recovery or death combined with low replacement.

References and notes to “Prevalence of Pathological and of Problem Gamblers”

1. Shaffer HJ, Hall MN Updating and Refining Prevalence Estimates of Disordered Gambling Behaviour in the United States and Canada. Canadian J Pub Health 2001 92(3): 168-172

2. Gerstein D et al Gambling Impact and Behavior Study. Research done by NORC for NGISC http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/ngisc/reports/gibstdy.pdf .

3. Petry N, Stinson FS, Grant B Comorbidity of DSM-IV Pathological Gamblers and Other Psychiatric Disorders. J Clin Psychiatry 2005. 66(5): 566-574

[ NOTE:In this report the lifetime prevalence of pathological gambling is 0.6% and of problem, 2.3%. A past-year figure would be lower.]

4. Shaffer HJ, Hall MN, Vander Bilt J Estimated Disordered Gambling Behavior in the United States and Canada Report to National Gambling Impact Study Final Report 1999  https://divisiononaddictions.org/html/publications/meta.pdf

Using these past-year prevalence figures the Shaffer et al study projected the following figures in millions of persons who were in each category (based on US pop in 1997)

Table 1. Number of persons classed as Problem or Pathological Gamblers, by age group,  USA , millions

 

ADULT                                  YOUTH (age 16-17)   ADULT & YOUTH

Prob     Pathol Both                Prob     Pathol Both                Prob     Pathol Both

5.3       2.2       7.5                   5.7       2.2       7.9                   11        4.4      15.4

IMPORTANT NOTE On p. 43 of Shaffer et al are figures showing an increase in the prevalence of past-year level 3  (abbreviated here to PYL3) between the earlier years covered by their meta-analysis (1977-1993) and the most recent three years (1994-1997). PYL3 in adults went from 0.84% to 1.29%, a statistically significant increase (p<.05). Comparing the same two epochs, lifetime level 2 in adults went from 2.93% to 4.88% (p < .05). The absolute increase in prevalence of PYL3 in adults was 0.45% , the relative increase 154%. When the authors merged all the studies, earlier and later, the higher prevalence figure (1.29%) was lost to view. The lower figure of 1.14 is probably too conservative.

A later paper (Shaffer and Hall Can J Pub Health 2001, referenced above as ref 1 found strong evidence that PYL3 continued to rise in the last years of the study interval. The authors updated the library of studies to review, adding ones published since 1997 and also some 91 studies that had never been published, furnished by their authors. 139 studies with at least one prevalence estimate (some compared two instruments) were analyzed for the 2001 paper. For adults only  Past year level 3 1.46%  lifetime level 3 1.92%.  There was a  positive correlation (r = .313, p<.05) for later year and higher prevalence. The authors found fifteen geographic areas in which earlier and later estimates had been done by the same methods. PYL3 averaged 1.02% in the earlier look, 1.33% in the second (p < .05)

5. Slutske WS Natural Recovery and Treatment –Seeking in Pathological Gambling. Am J. Psychiatry 2006: 163:297-502  The researcher looked at the past-year experience of the 201 persons who had met criteria for lifetime pathological gambling in one of two surveys, found that about a third no longer met criteria for the preceding year. The two surveys are in refs 2 and 3

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Permission to reprint or quote is hereby given by the author as long as the above permalink is cited.

photo image from flickr creative commons titled “16/17”  1925077643_a9ec21bcb4_m

NYS-based Civil Society Organizations Opposed to Gambling Expansion

Watkins Gen, New York, October 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the November 5 referendum on casino gambling nears, Coalition  Against  Gambling in New York  (CAGNY)  is often asked “who’s with you?”   In  response we provide here a guide  to  non-profit organizations in New York State divided  into two sections  according to their position on government-sanctioned gambling.   These organizations are not formally members of our coalition. It consists of  individuals,  who may represent informally an organization.  Some of  the organizations listed below work  closely with us; others at arm’s length.  Some have a few members; the larger, denominational,  ones have hundreds of thousands among them.   We are privileged to all be aligned at this crucial time and beyond. This guide is not complete, but we believe the assemblage here represents well the spirit of New York State.

Oppose  gambling   expansion

Catholic  Conference September 2013

The Archdiocese of  New York  published the  statement of the Conference of Bishops as an editorial in Catholic New York  3 October 2013  

Council on Alcoholism and Addictions of the  Finger Lakes,  Geneva

Council on Addictions of  New York State,  Oneonta

Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse. Buffalo

Institute for American Values, New York

LEAF Council on Alcoholism and Addictions,  Oneonta

Prevention Network of Central New York, Syracuse

Seaway Prevention Council, Ogdensburg

Steuben Council on Addictions, Bath

 

Urge a “NO” vote on   “Proposal  1”  to legalize 7 new  casinos

Casino-Free Sullivan County, Woodbourne   contact  joanthursh@gmail.com

Catskill Mountain Keeper, Youngsville

Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County (CACGEC), Buffalo contact joelrose@buffalo.edu

Coalition  Against  Gambling in New York (CAGNY), Buffalo

Conservative Party of New York State,  Brooklyn

Statement  of  the Right  Reverend William Love,  Bishop of  the Episcopal Diocese of Albany,   Greenwich

Statement of the Right Reverend Lawrence Provenzano, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, Garden City

Statement  of  the Right Reverend Andrew Dietsche, Bishop of the   Episcopal Diocese of New York,   New York

Statement  of  The Rt. Rev. Prince G. Singh VIII , Episcopal Bishop of Rochester can be requested by an e-mail to the Bishop.

Interfaith Alliance of  Rochester

Interfaith Impact of New York State,  Albany

New York State Council of Churches, Albany  read  statement here

New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation,   Spencerport

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, Spencerport

Network of Religious Communities, Buffalo

No Casino 1000 Islands, Wellesley Island contact  cwellinshphs@yahoo.com

Saratogians Against More Casinos in Our Town contact

No Saugerties Casino, Saugerties

Partnership for the Public Good, Buffalo

Sustainable Saratoga, Saratoga Springs

United Methodist Church, New York  Annual  Conference , White Plains

United Methodist Church, Upper New York  Annual  Conference ,  Syracuse

VOICE- Buffalo  contact france@buffalo.edu

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Photo of Watkins  Glen NY from flickr creative commons “looking-up-the-sky” 4002696878_b439720a72.jpg

list compiled by CAGNYEDITOR,  who is responsible for any errors.

 

Ballot stuff

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The letter immediately below was sent to the four Commissioners of the New York State Board of Elections on the letterhead of Coalition Against Gambling in New York and received at 40 N. Pearl on 28 October.  It requests them all to resign.

Below the text of the letter its signers review in detail the webcast of the meeting in which this lamentable chapter of New York election history emerged.  We also review the legislative history of the 1966 amendment that gave us “Lottery for education.”  It does not show the rewriting for which  “Proposal 1”  is now infamous.

New York State  Board of Elections
40 North Pearl Street, Suite 5, Albany, NY 12207 2729                  October   24 2013

James A. Walsh,  Co-Chairman
Douglas A. Kellner,  Co-Chairman
Evelyn J. Aquila,  Commissioner
Gregory P. Peterson,  Commissioner

re: “Proposal One”  2013 ballot language and position

Dear Commissioners:

The New York State Board of Elections is “charged with the preservation of citizen confidence in the democratic process and enhancement in voter participation in elections.”  By crafting  pro-amendment  language for Prop. One, the Board has betrayed our  trust.  You should resign.

An initial draft of Prop One (NY Times, 10/17)  read “The purpose of the proposed amendment to sec. 9 of article 1 of the constitution is to allow the Legislature to authorize and regulate up to seven casinos.”  The Board added to this “for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated. Shall the amendment be approved?”

The Board did not make public the changes until the challenge period had elapsed. The Siena Poll of September 30 showed a huge effect of the added language, misrepresented by the Commissioners (p. 25) as  “minor revisions.”  Where “yes” and “no” had been tied when the earlier language was read, a gap of thirteen percentage points – landslide proportions – opened when respondents were read the adorned language.    In addition, the Board put the amendment into position one when it stood sixth by custom. The Board has made a mockery of a fair election.

The Coalition Against Gambling in New York  and  No Saugerties Casino call upon you, the Commissioners,  to resign forthwith.

Sincerely
s/  Arnold Lieber, MD                                                    s/ Stephen Q. Shafer MD, MPH, MA
Member, Exec. Comm. No Saugerties Casino             Chairperson, CAGNY

 

Background: As many citizens know, amending the NYS  Constitution without  a Constitutional Convention  requires two steps  by the Legislature, sometimes called first and second passage. “Second passage” sends the proposed amendment to  referendum at a General Election.  The resolutions passed for a second time on 21 June 2013  (A 8068 same as  S 5898)  were to  amend the existing prohibitions on  gambling to make an exception for

“CASINO GAMBLING AT NO MORE THAN SEVEN FACILITIES AS AUTHORIZED  AND  PRESCRIBED BY THE LEGISLATURE.”   [caps original].

Following the rules, this resolution was sent to the Attorney General for final approval and for the AG’s recommendation on how the ballot should be worded.  According to the New York Times, the first draft for the ballot said “The purpose of the proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the constitution is to allow the  Legislature to authorize and regulate up to seven casinos.  If approved, the amendment would permit commercial casino gambling in New York state.”  This version went from the AG to the Board of Elections on or around July 19.  The BOE made revisions during  the next week before their scheduled meeting of  29  July.  At that meeting they certified a rewording done in the previous week, after referring to  it as one of   two “minor changes”  among the six amendments whose language was to be certified.

When the certified language finally hit public awareness on  Sept 11, it was clear that the “minor change”  in “proposal 1”   was anything but minor.  A storm of   protest arose over what reporter Michael Gormley on that day called  “the rosy language,”  which ran thus:

“The proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the Constitution would allow the legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated.  Shall the amendment be approved?

The effect of the rewording was dramatically shown in a Siena Poll of September 30.  Respondents split 46-46 in reaction to the following version of the  amendment proposal  developed  by the poll itself:  “Do you support or oppose passing an amendment to the state constitution to allow non-Indian, Las Vegas style casinos to be built in New York?”  To the elaborated language above, however,  55% of respondents said yes and only 42% no.  A landslide-size gap of thirteen points had opened.

The BOE also elevated the measure from last of six proposals (where it belonged by custom, having been the last to gain.  This is a disgrace to New York State.

Using the webcast and transcription of the meeting we reviewed the crucial short interval in which the language for all of the six proposals is voted upon as certified and the order on the ballot set.

Position  on the ballot:  Co-Chairman  Kellner  is heard to say  (around 1:38:50 of the webcast provided by the BOE for the July 29 meeting)  “Because of the relatively high profile and substantial interest in the press on the casino gaming issue we decided it is in the best interest to list that first  …  to reduce potential voter confusion.”

Our comment:  Whose best interest?  Moving the casino amendment to the top line does not combat voter “confusion,”  but does give  special status.   Once the custom (last in second passage,  last on ballot) has been broken, or random ordering is not used, number  1 is obviously Somebody’s favorite.   This position is set to interact with catchy campaign slogans associating “yes”  with 1.  For (say) two measures the position effect is negligible; with six, considerable.

Wording   There is said to be precedent for the BOE to add to or change what the Attorney General’s office recommended to them,  though we have not seen examples.  Note well: the CONCURRENT RESOLUTION OF THE SENATE AND ASSEMBLY   (S. Pr 906, A. Pr 1606. Jan 17 and 18 1966) that underlay the amendment passed that November to establish Lottery for education reads the same as the ballot word for word.  The ballot wording is therefore much longer than even the 54 words of “rosy language,”   but voters did see the same words the Legislature had voted on.

In the webcast  section where the Commissioners  discuss the revisions (ca. 1:37:30),  Mr. Brehm (Co-Exec Director)  is reciting changes in two of the amendments from the language sent by the AG.  Only two amendments coming from the AG  were rewritten by the BOE.  One editing was to remove the redundant words “even more” from the proposed amendment about veterans’ benefits.  Mr Brehm  then  says, “with regard to the gaming, which is number 1  … to .. um  when Co-Chair Kellner cuts in to say  “review the legislative purposes that were included in the underlying statute.”

We as citizens, not lawyers, now ask “What was the underlying statute?”

The second passage resolutions of June 2013  (same for  both  chambers)  were to  amend the prohibition on  gambling in article I sec 9 to allow  “CASINO GAMBLING AT NO MORE THAN SEVEN FACILITIES AS AUTHORIZED  AND  PRESCRIBED BY THE LEGISLATURE.”    To us, this is the “underlying statute.”  Its legislative purposes are clear. Technically  this is a resolution, not a bill.

The legislators knew voters would not like an amendment so open-ended as the fifteen words above; so, they developed the 220 pages of the  Upstate New York Gaming and Economic Development Act of 2013 (UNYGEDA) as a road map to sketch fiscal projections and write regulations on a practice that when the act was passed was, and still is, illegal in New York.  Sad to say, this act is written in mud, not stone.  However tightly UNYGEDA has been grafted onto the proposed amendment, it is not what the electorate is supposed to be voting on, which is the proposal to legalize seven casinos.

The phrases added by BOE  “to review the legislative purposes that were included in the underlying statute”  do  reflect  the aims of the amendment’s promoters.  These might by a stretch be called “legislative purposes.”  They are campaign promises, however, not statements of fact.   It is a fact that a successful transportation bond issue will pay for materials and labor to improve highways and bridges.  It is fond hope, not fact,  that seven casinos will “promote job growth.”   It  is a fact that by the provisions of UNYGEDA revenue to government from casinos can be designated for “aid to schools” or for  “permitting local governments to lower property taxes.”  These apparent benefits, however, are not provably greater than the hidden social costs due to  adding casinos to the NYS economy instead of sincerely trying to reduce problem gambling in New York State.  We believe they are much less.  These apparent benefits are deceptive.  As one commentator said, “it’s like balancing your checkbook by entering only deposits.”

We understand the complexity of all these casino amendment issues, understand that it would hardly be possible to put detailed pros and cons for even one amendment (still less, six) onto a ballot without daunting voters.  All the more reason, then, to stick with terse, neutral language.

Moving the amendment up the ladder and slanting  its language  interact strongly “in the best interest” not of a fair voting process but of those who desperately want the amendment passed.

The Board of Elections has failed signally in its duty to the People of New York State.  The four commissioners  should resign immediately.

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photo captioned “vote” is from flickr creative commons

The request  in the letter is endorsed by the Boards of Coalition Against Gambling in New York and No Saugerties Casino.  Permission to quote from this post or to reproduce in whole or part is hereby granted as long as the permalink above is cited

Disposition of Revenues from Casino Taxes: a Projection

 

Goya:  El Sueno de Razon

Goya: El Sueno de la Razon Produce Monstruos

 

 

 

Disposition of Revenues to New York State Residents from Casino Taxes per Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act of 2013: a Projection

 

 

 

On Monday, Sept 23 2013 at 12:01 AM EDT,  Coalition Against Gambling in New York released a report of high interest to all New York State voters and taxpayers.  Governor Cuomo has touted the proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize casinos as a benefit to all New Yorkers.  Now dubbed “Proposal One,”  it will be presented with heavy bias on the ballot for  a “yes” vote. Click on the link right below to read opinion of the NY Daily News about the ballot langauge.  http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/house-wins-article-1.1454344

The framers of “Proposal One”  must hope voters won’t have thought about pros and cons until they enter the booth.  To counter this deliberate neglect by the casino promoters, we made conservative assumptions to project the impact of the amendment’s  passage on property tax bills around  the state. 

In our projections, if the amendment passes, the  benefits (as property tax relief or aid to education) to individuals from taxes on casinos’ gaming revenue would vary enormously (by more than twenty-fold) from place to place.   The size of these disparities is not rationalized in the legislation that prescribes them.   These tax relief measures if enacted  would hardly change the personal property tax situation for a majority of the state’s population.   We project, for example,  that if 80% of  the taxes paid to the state by four  exceptionally busy new casinos  were disbursed uniformly to the  whole state entirely as property tax relief, residents of “downstate” (NYC, L.I., Westchester, Rockland and Putnam) would have just $20  of relief per adult per year.    The “relief” to more than 99% of taxpayers if the amendment passes would  be less than the conservatively-projected  increase in hidden quantifiable social costs of legalized gambling to be expected from adding “up to seven”  new casinos.  In short, for almost all New Yorkers in relation to taxes cons >> pros.

Readers can develop their own scenarios and projections using our straightforward methods.  

Click on the link to see a pdf of the 22-page report, divided into Summary, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, Conclusions and Appendix.     UNYGEDASept22_Final

This version varies slightly from that sent to members of the press and other media on Sept 18 in advance of release to the public in early morning of Monday Sept 23.  Changes are shown at the end.  

Opinions in this piece are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of any or all other members of Coalition Against Gambling in New York. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this post  in whole or part as long as there is a citation to the permalink above. Corresponding author is Dave Colavito ddcolavito@gmail.com .  You may request a pdf version of the report by e-mail.

 

 

 

Q and A on Predatory Gambling in New York

Kollwitz  Woman with Dead Child

Kollwitz Woman with Dead Child

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.

Permission is hereby granted by CAGNYEDITOR to reproduce this text in whole or part as long as as the permalink above is cited.

Crapping Out in New York: For Education

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By Dave Colavito.  first published in Huffington Post July 12 

Whether NY voters consent to amend the state constitution to expand gambling is something that will likely be decided in November. What’s certain is “Gambling for Education” will remain a trusted brand for Governor Cuomo and his handlers. The problem is the subtext: Gambling is Good for the Kids — unlike adequate nutrition, adolescent problem gambling won’t help build strong bodies or healthy minds.

Most adults appreciate the invaluable service carnival barking provides in the service of Albany’s gambling policies — how else do you keep convincing losers they’ll win, so long as they keep losing? But when it comes to educating the kids, voters know the importance of leading by example. So before heading to the polls in November, it’s worth considering whether more of the Albany example is really in their best interest.

State-sponsored gambling is already here, as are other permitted activities. But a proposal for the state-sponsored expansion of say, cigarette smoking or sugary junk food in schools would be roundly rejected and hailed as a public policy victory. Why — not everyone eating such junk food becomes diabetic, and its marketing surely contributes to the state’s economy and creates jobs? The answer assuredly has to do with education. And though Albany is a partner in educating children, it’s a deeply conflicted partner by virtue of its promotion of gambling.

Continue reading

Under New Management: Business as Usual

Melencolia (A. Durer 1514) file from Wikipedia

Melencolia (A. Durer 1514) file from Wikipedia

A press release dated 20 Feb 2013 announces the formation of  “The Responsible Play Partnership”  to bring together the newly formed NYS Gaming Commission, OASAS (Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services) and NYS Council on Problem Gambling.   The full text may be seen at  http://www.gaming.ny.gov/pdf/press_022013.pdf    I have excerpted one  line and five paragraphs from it, making no changes within the excerpts, which  are in italics.  I have added commentary at the top,  among the paragraphs and at the bottom.

None of the proposed actions is itself a bad idea.  The total package, however,  is wholly inadequate to deal with compulsive and problem gambling in the state now.   Moreover, it takes no account of  new gamblers moving into these two categories  if, as the Governor wants,  seven new casinos are eventually licensed.  Casinos are hardly mentioned.

 … The Responsible Play Partnership will include the following components:

 Swift enforcement of age restriction laws: New York law prohibits gambling under the age of 18 at all OTBs, horse racing facilities and casinos. The current legal purchase age for Lottery tickets is 18 and 21 in establishments that sell alcoholic beverages. Similar to state enforcement efforts that prevent alcoholic beverage sales to underage buyers, the Responsible Play Partnership will help to enforce the age restriction laws for gambling:

  • The Council on Problem Gambling is coordinating with various alcohol and substance abuse councils across the State to carry out underage compliance checks at various locales, with Gaming Commission staff accompanying them. Underage volunteers will attempt to place bets, purchase tickets and/or engage in gambling activities at lottery retailers, Quick Draw locales, off-track betting and E-Z Bet locations, race tracks and video lottery terminal facilities across the state.
  • When violations occur and where possible, Gaming Commission personnel on-hand will issue an immediate notice to the venue outlining the violation and any applicable disciplinary action.
  • Violations could result in fines, suspensions or revocation of an entity’s license to participate or provide such services in New York.

 Comments: 

  • Stiff  barriers  to underage gambling are good.  There is no mention, however,  of  how intensive or extensive  the micro-sting operations will be.  Penalties do not seem stiff —  violations “could”   result in  fines  etc.  
  • I expect the  RPP has no authority over  tribal casinos; thus, no mention here of  including   them.   If  non-tribal casinos are introduced, would the RPP be sending its underage undercover agents into those?
  • Is the RPP going to say anything now about the proposal mentioned in New York Times (21 Feb 2013 pp A19 and A22)  to allow  persons under 21 to play Quick Draw in bars?   If  truly responsible, the RPP should not merely accede to checking on compliance with changes in law that deliberately  increase exposure to gambling.  It should contest such changes.

 Proper resources at facilities to identify and address problem gambling: The Gaming Commission will mandate that VLT locations, off-track betting facilities and race tracks in the State  submit a report indicating how they currently handle individuals showing signs of  being problem gamblers. The Commission will evaluate these measures with OASAS, the Council on Problem Gambling and future partners to issue improved consistent policies to all facility operators.

 Comment:  This empty rule will probably get some token compliance hardly worth the paper it’s written on.   It is impossible  that  any of the listed types of facility will look in good faith for  “signs of being problem gamblers.”  For one thing, they don’t have the staff  in settings (e.g. racinos)  which  improve profit margin by mechanization and depersonalization.  Moreover, they have a fiscal reason to be blind to problems unless they anticipate  frequent  inspection and a harsh penalty for failure.   This brings us  to the central statistic  of predatory gambling:  a large proportion of  the  gross returns after winnings are paid out  comes from the small proportion of the gamblers who are compulsive or problem gamblers.  Grinols and Omorow* estimated 35-50% at the average casino, from about 4% of the adult population.   No  sensible gambling  locale will risk offending its best customers and driving them to a competitor by confronting them with the always-denied suggestion that there might be a problem.    No floor manager wants to be fired for remonstrating, even gently,  with  a  longtime customer  who is sure to deny what is felt as an accusation.

Casinos know a great deal about customers, but can always claim that if someone has left $40,000 on their tables in the last year they have no responsibility to know where that money came from.  Is it chump change to a wealthy heir or is it a spouse’s I.R.A.?   Casinos are off-limits to state regulators now in NYS (as NY casinos are all tribal)  but if non-tribal ones are legalized as the Governor wants,  they would theoretically be very important  in identifying problem gamblers.   A major part of the Governor’s idea for new commercial casinos was to regulate (as well as tax) them in a way that tribal casinos are not regulated or taxed.  It is odd  that the RPP omits casinos in their announcement.

 For that matter, lottery ticket sellers and Quick Draw locales (admittedly thousands of times more numerous than the other settings and harder to monitor) are also exempted from  watching for “signs.”  A small-town convenience store is probably better able to know which neighbor-customer  has a gambling problem than a busy racino, but certainly disinclined to report a worry.  The ticket-seller can always hope that tonight’s pick will at last be the lucky one.

The only persons really motivated to confront and point towards recovery an addicted or problem gambler are those around the gambler who are being exploited and hurt by him or her AND KNOW IT.   All too often these people have been deceived outright or bamboozled by co-dependency and fear into doing nothing effective.  One measure that could help those who are actually deceived by a casino-gambler (as opposed to paralyzed)  is that a monthly statement of wins and losses be mailed to each customer’s home address.  Such laws have been proposed in states with non-tribal casinos, but  never pass.  If  New York gets non-tribal casinos our state should have such a law.

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“Treatment” and “Prevention” of Problem Gambling: 2 little, 2 late

4376727123_8fc3fb172dfrom flickr cc

4376727123_8fc3fb172dfrom flickr cc

photo retitled                                               “Contemplation”

Letter  to the Editor of Legislative Gazette, Albany NY,  published Feb 12 

To the Editor:                                                                             Feb 6 2013

Members of the Coalition Against Gambling in New York came to Albany on Feb 5 to express our views to legislators against amending the State Constitution to legalize “no more than seven casinos.”   We were heartened to see in the “Other Voice”  section  an article from the Syracuse Post-Standard  headed “Social cost of gambling outweighs revenue gained.”  It treats the proposed expansion of Quick Draw, but the header applies as well to the Governor’s proposal  for more casinos.  We hope it will resound in the corridors of power.

Page 8 has an article by the Gazette’s Josefa Velasquez about the efforts  of  Assemblymember Cymbrowitz to “address the potential dangers”  of  “increase[d ] gambling opportunities “ by “investment of resources”   “in programs  … effective… in reducing  … problem gambling, as well as evidence-based prevention programs that aim to reduce the risk of individuals engaging in addictive behavior.”  Mr. Cymbrowitz  is sincere in his desire to help, but we believe on the wrong track.  In Kansas, where for a population a tenth the size of New York’s the state allocates more than twice as much funding to  treatment and prevention of problem gambling,  a recent report concluded  that only 0.5 % of the estimated 24,000 pathological gamblers in the state were in a state-funded treatment program.   I note that  the 24,000 figure actually underestimates the prevalence  of  pathological and problem gambling combined.

Mr.  Cymbrowitz, in a hearing he convened 20 December 2012, stated that there are close to a million NYS residents with a gambling problem.  A witness at the hearing estimated that only 5000 individuals in NYS are in state-funded treatment currently.   5,000/1,000,000 = 0.5%.  If  treatment  in KS, with twenty times the per capita  allocation,  does not  penetrate deeper  than  it does in NY,  a responsible society cannot depend  on treatment of problem gambling , no matter how effective  it can be for individuals.  We must rely much more on an environmental strategy for primary prevention:  don’t expand gambling “opportunities.”   Our state has more than enough now. 

s/ Stephen Q. Shafer MD MPH Chairperson Coalition Against Gambling in NY

PG Tx Enrollments FY12KansasStudy Kansas report

12-20-12 Alcohol and Drugs Transcript Assembly Hearing Trasncript