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.

 

 

 

New York State is Addicted

Despair

New York State is addicted to revenues from gambling.  This is not just a figure of speech. Below are hallmarks obvious in the state’s behavior over the 47 years since its Constitution was amended to allow a lottery with periodic drawings and paper tickets.  In November another amendment, to permit “up to seven” casinos, will be on the ballot statewide. Intervention is needed.

  • craving
  • upping the dose
  • seeking short-term rewards e.g. “aid to education” without an uptick in personal or business tax rates.
  • discounting adverse effects  Problem gambling in New York drains from society  more than 3.5 billion dollars a year in quantifiable socio-economic costs like judicial administration, lowered productivity, and abused dollars.  This amount excludes suicide, proceeds of crime and psychosocial harm to the dozen or so individuals who are betrayed by every problem gambler in “the chase.”  No state official ever acknowledges the size of this problem.  The econometrics are in Gambling in America (Cambridge University Press, 2004) by Earl L. Grinols, Distinguished Professor of Economics at Baylor.
  • denying long term liabilities (e.g. spectre of fiscal flop with saturation, need for bailout à la NJ or DE, future inroads by internet gambling)
  • scoffing at the diagnosis “There’s nothing wrong with me!”
  • dismissing prospects of recovery  
  • cheating (e.g. allowing as if they are video lottery terminals (VLTs) hybrid electronic table games with outcomes not under the control of Lottery’s central processing unit.  See New York Daily News May 5 and 12, 2013. Another more recent example: rewriting the text of the amendment   to be on November ballot to make it an advertisement for a yes vote and boosting the proposal from the sixth slot where it belongs by date of passage into the “number one” slot.
  • deceiving e.g. pretending  increased regional cash throughput is “economic development”  Another example: saying that government regulation of commercial casinos will prevent the creation and exploitation of problem gamblers. In fact, government wants tough regulation to protect itself from being cheated, not to end problem gambling.   Half of casino revenues flow from the 4% of adults who are problem gamblers.  The casino owners don’t want to stop mining this mother lode, nor would tax-collectors like a 50% drop in revenues to the state. Even the most credulous person will realize that “regulation” in this situation is  programmed to fall far short of stated intentions.
  • scheming and manipulating  item, conceding money due to the state, localities and private citizens to deflect Indian opposition to potential competitors; item, promising a piece of commercial casino revenues not to “education” nor to “local property tax relief” but to horse-breeding and tracks if legalized casinos “cannibalize” racino gambling
  • conniving “If a law is in your way, get rid of it.”
  • dealing in a desperate and dishonorable way to keep “the connection.”  The Upstate NY Gaming Economic Development Act of 2013 authorized additional video gaming establishments under Lottery if the casino amendment does not pass.  A spokesperson for the Governor (see Wall Street Journal June 15) offered ball-park figures: three to four “upstate” facilities with up to 5000 machines each.  This would more than double the state’s current battery.  The same bill enacted, regardless of the amendment’s outcome, additional VLT facilities “downstate.” Curious, for a bill denoted “Upstate.”

New York State is not addicted in the sense that its whole government is preoccupied each day with raising revenue from gambling. Nor is a large proportion of total revenue to the state from that source.  It’s less than 3%. That the state is a high-functioning addict still able to multi-task does not excuse its being addicted nor give assurance that its dependence will not get worse.

New York is not alone.  Many states and Canadian provinces are addicted too.  All show typical denial. Nowhere but in NY, however, do voters statewide have the chance in 2013 to call the addiction just that and say “Let’s start to ‘Recover New York.’”

Most people, even if they have never been in one, know what an intervention is, how it can launch recovery before catastrophe has struck.   New York needs an intervention now. Rejecting the proposed amendment at the General Election is a good start. Sad to say that’s all it can be.  The intervenors have no leverage here. The addict has a big stash locked in the garage and no intention of handing it over or entering treatment.

I personally regret NYS has the “casino referendum” because opponents may be outspent >1000 to 1 as is happening in Massachusetts and the public bamboozled.  Now that the Governor and his legislature have brought us the referendum, though, we can and must use it to confront our government, challenge it to lead recovery from gambling addiction the way it leads on recovery from natural disaster,

Photo image “Despair” from flickr creative commons 3503412461_815c19b748

Opinions in this piece are those of the writer, Stephen Shafer,  and do not necessarily reflect the views of any or all other members of CAGNY.  Permission to reproduce in whole or part is hereby granted as long as the permalink above is cited.

Problem Gambling Misery Summated

 

Graphic by Dave Colavito

Graphic by Dave Colavito

      The central statistic of casino finances is that 50% of taxable revenue comes from pathological and problem gamblers, about 4% of adults.  One evil of casino gambling is that almost none of the money that these unfortunate persons leave at casinos belongs clearly to them alone unless they have recently, and legally,  become very rich, without dependents.  Thus 50% of pre-tax revenue, more than 50% of profit, has been diverted from persons who may never have gambled, innocent bystanders or co-dependents.  Spouses, children, siblings, parents, employers, employees, clients – these are just a few examples.  The typical gambling addict is into eight, twelve, fifteen other people whom he or she will serially sacrifice to “the chase,” usually until it has consumed the gambler and destroyed all good social and emotional relationships.

     Most residents of the U.S. can recite that gambling addiction is a true addiction. Secretly, however, many believe it is a moral failing or a defect in reasoning that deserves catastrophe.  They rationalize that, if everyone can avoid a small increase in  personal tax outlays by the exenterating exploitation of the 4% who are problem gamblers,  that’s a win for the other 96%.   This “devil take the hindmost” approach may look utilitarian.  It does not take account of the dozen or more people around each problem gambler who are wrung out fiscally and emotionally in the quest for “more revenue to education.”  See the April 15 post “Robbing Peter” on this web site. 

      To comprehend the total misery dealt out by predatory gambling to a specified group of individuals would need much study. Consensus would be unlikely.  Economists like Earl Grinols have painstakingly  presented harm in terms of dollars.  While we respect this completely for cost-benefit analysis, we have always noted that  it understates the total impact, which is a stew of fiscal loss and emotional hurt.  Quantifying in an entire population the cumulative lifetime misery associated with problem gambling so as to reach consensus is impossible.  There are two aspects, however,  that everyone can agree on qualitatively.  First, the problem gambler alone does not sustain or mete out all the damage; second, not all the damage can be measured  econometrically.

          The graphic above, realized by Dave Colavito,  is an abstraction, not data-based.  It shows that the high casino profits due to problem gamblers,  which are taxed into “revenues to education” via gambling “regulated” or operated by state government come at the expense  — literal and figurative — of many more parties than those individual gamblers.  The “iceberg”  (actually it looks  more like a volcano rising above the waves from the ocean floor ) schematizes lifetime gambling-related cumulative misery as a function of psychosocial closeness to a problem gambler.  The problem gambler is the red apex.  The strata of adjoining locations represent lifetime cumulative misery of other parties at varying psychosocial distances from the problem gambler.  The anguish of a wife who has seen the furniture sold, the children made homeless and the husband she still tries to love gone  or jailed will be more than that of a client cheated or a friend whose loan to “help pay my kid’s doctor bill” is never repaid.  There are, however,  more clients and friends around a problem gambler than spouses.  Integrated  over all these more distant persons, the totality of hurt and loss is likely to exceed that of the very nearest and dearest. 

          However we define misery –as pure fiscal deprivation or that plus emotional damage  — it is not “just” the problem gambler who loses something lifelong  in the havoc of out-of-control gambling.  It is a dozen or more other people, whether innocent,  trusting, co-dependent or any combination. To the  casinos that prey on problem gamblers and governments that get income therefrom, these people are chopped liver.

Three references about impact on families http://s3.amazonaws.com/publicationslist.org/data/philip.darbyshire/ref-36/JGS%20gambling%20paper.pdf 

http://www.problemgambling.ca/gambling-help/support-for-families/effects-on-families.aspx

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17667890 

Permission is given by Cagnyeditor to reproduce this in full or part as long as the permalink above is cited and the graphic is attributed to Dave Colavito.

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.

Invest in Recovery

 

Dusk on the Neversink 8745715895_222d9cfde0_mNeversink

Dusk on the Neversink
8745715895_222d9cfde0_mNeversink

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dave Colavito, at a CAGNY press conference in Albany on 4 June  2013,  presented this outline of a just scheme that would save NYS more than the hidden quantifiable socio-economic costs generated by legalized gambling each year.

  • The first step in helping local economies: Don’t make them worse.  Yet the Gov.’s plan will do just that, because it ignores the financial cost of gambling disorders.
  • Socioeconomic costs of gambling in NYS are now estimated at $3.7 billion annually
    • Exceeds revenues from all Atlantic City casinos in 2012
    • 381,000 Problem and 172,500 Pathological gambler costs burden all NYers
    • Gov.’s plan will produce more people (and costs) with gambling disorders.
    • FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE ALTERNATIVE: NYS INVESTS in RECOVERY, not CASINOS
      • Stop Denying the Problem
      • State share of tribal casino proceeds isn’t restricted for education
        • § Dedicate $600 million escrow & future proceeds: Recovery, Prevention
  • Fund Professional Training, Staffing, and Siting to Address the Need
  • Fund Aggressive Marketing Campaign: Promote Addiction Prevention & Recovery

SOCIAL Implications

 Gov. Cuomo Claims NYS is the Progressive Capital of the Nation

 FIVE CONSIDERATIONS:

 1. NYers afflicted with a disorder (Problem & Pathological gamblers) classified by the American Psychiatric Association exhibit measurably different brain function than the general population.

2. Predatory Gambling incites  those differences in brain function  

3. Symptoms of those afflicted worsen uncontrollably when re-exposed to Predatory Gambling   

4.Vendors of Predatory Gambling derive  50% of their revenue from  these afflicted persons and from those who trust(ed)  them and lost their resources too.

5. NYS actively promotes predatory gambling via Lottery including video lottery terminals and electronic table games; Gov. Cuomo now wants to increase that promotion with added full-blown casinos.

New Yorkers could almost zero out the hidden costs of gambling if the State invested to guide all problem gamblers (and their families and friends) to become again the people they  were before the first bet.  This would save money and save lives, not take away money and take away lives.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author, Dave Colavito, and do not necessarily represent the opinion of any or all other members of CAGNY.  Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute in whole or in part as long as the above permalink is cited.

Five Arguments against Legalizing Casinos in NY

 

The Great Seal of the Sate of New York

The Great Seal of the State of New York

Five current arguments about legalizing non-tribal casinos in New York State in the light of the keystone estimate for casino revenues shown in bold below. 

52% of revenues at the average casino are from problem or pathological gamblers. (Grinols and Omorow 16  J. Law and Commerce 1996-97 p. 59)  Together, these types of gamblers are 4% of adults,  about 7%  of casino  clients.

 PRO: Would send new revenue to Albany without raising tax rates.

CON: Half that revenue would have been diverted, to their lasting harm,   from the families and associates of addicted and problem gamblers, or would be proceeds of outright crime. 

CON: If quantifiable social costs are considered,  raising $1  via tax on casinos costs the private  sector twice what it costs to gain that $1 by a step-up  in a conventional tax rate.  (*Grinols pp. 180-181)

 PRO: All or nearly all that revenue would be dedicated to “education.”

CON: Simply allows $$ that would have gone to education to be spent elsewhere in state budget. 

CON: Creates a pretext for annual increases. Who’s against “more money for education?”

 PRO: Would be regulated to cut out underworld and instructed to “prevent problem gambling.”

CON: See keystone estimate.  Casinos get 50 % of revenues from < 7 % of clients.  Steering those clients into lasting recovery and halting their replacement would ↓↓ high profit margins.  What for-profit business wants to cooperate in drying up the 7% of customers that leave half its take ?   No business.

CON: Promoting “responsible gaming” is a sham.   Seriously-affected gamblers seldom benefit by government-sponsored treatment programs until terrible damage has come to them and those close to them.  

 PRO: “Creates jobs.”

CON: May hurt other businesses by taking workers from them (“cannibalization” ).

CON: Importing workers can burden host community (housing stock, schools).

 PRO: “Economic development”

CON:  Increased local cash throughput  (does not equal)  economic development.

CON:  Local property taxes promised by casinos economic development.

Then what is economic development ?  “The creation of greater value by society from its available resources”  (*Grinols p. 57) 

*footnotes refer to Gambling in America: Costs and Benefits by Earl L. Grinols (Cambridge University  Press, 2004). Earl Grinols is Distinguished Professor of Economics at Baylor University.

 The opinions in this piece are those of the author, Stephen Q. Shafer MD MPH and are not  necessarily shared by any or all members of CAGNY.  Permission is hereby granted to quote from this piece at any length if the source is cited using the permalink.

 

Risks to Self and to Others: Where is the Line?

The Marshalsea Debtors' Prison, image from google

Gambling is the only personal behavior with high potential for harm to self and others actively encouraged  by civil government.  Why the anomaly?   Revenue

Most Americans say government  should  not legislate  behavior  any more than speech.  Risky or self-destructive actions  internal to an individual  are personal  freedoms when  they don’t infringe  on the rights or the welfare  of others.  That line, however,  is hard to define.  

Some smokers chafe at laws to ban smoking in indoor public places.  There, sensitivities  more than cancer-causing potential of second-hand smoke are detriments to others.  No laws limit smoking in a home with young children,  though  beating and starving are prohibited.  Inference: society considers domestic second-hand smoke relatively low-hazard.

Take  money. Most people say that government should not decree what individuals may do with funds to which they have access  (not necessarily  really theirs).  By this philosophy,  there should be no laws that one cannot literally burn money,  or spend it on valueless objects, or run up credit card debt or take out loans with no intent to repay.   There aren’t.  Even when others (close or remote) lose by these behaviors,  society  allows them. Inference: society considers wasting someone else’s money tough luck for that someone.

Recently I  heard  this  “personal freedoms”  theme from a friend about  legalized  gambling.   My first response was to point out that active pathological and problem gamblers always abuse others around them, psychologically and fiscally.  No problem gambler is an island.   Those in recovery have always left  mayhem behind.   Even if launched with millions,  like ex-Mayor Maureen O’Connor,  they will all if active  go broke eventually and start taking from others who trust them.  My friend is too conservative  or  too libertarian   to be swayed by the harm-to-others  case as I put it. 

He could not, however, refute the observation that no laws are made on purpose to encourage behaviors like heavy smoking around children at home.  In contrast, changing laws to expand gambling so the state gets money from it encourages gambling. Addiction and Problem Gambling follow in too many people, despite “preventive” nostrums.  

My friend acknowledged  that in legalizing  gambling  government  is not making irksome laws to curb personal  behavior.  Quite the reverse.   By licensing gambling  to get revenue (via lottery or tax on casino),  government actually legislates  in favor of  personal behaviors some of which are bound to hurt trusted others.  Those who say “legalized” gambling  entitles  anyone  to use available  money any way  he or she wants  deplore  a ban such as New York  has on non-tribal casinos.  A ban, though, is to buffer gamblers and innocents around them, not to draw them in, not to exploit them.   In granting license for gambling to raise revenue,  government becomes an exploiter.    This is plain wrong. 

 

Note : The picture (from Google.com) shows the Marshalsea  in 19th C. London.  Charles Dickens knew this prison well. His father, though not a gambler,  was usually  in debt.  Debtors were locked up, unable to earn money, until someone else sprang them.

The opinions in this post are those of the writer, Stephen Q. Shafer MD MPH.  They do not necessarily reflect opinions of any or all other members of CAGNY.  Permission is granted for reproduction in whole or in part as long as the source is acknowledged with the permalink above.

No Place for Casinos

Dawn over Hudson River 12/25/2010DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Every week CAGNY (courtesy of our anti-gambling allies  at NYCF) distributes a one-page handout to the offices of all legislators.  In the  bulletin to legislators of March 5 (posted last week on this site as “Central Statistic”), we stated that it is the practice of the casino cartel, which gets  35-50%  of  its profits from out-of-control gamblers,  to foster  irresponsible gambling while pretending not to.  To learn how the fostering is done, read Addiction by Design (Natasha Schull, 2012, Princeton University Press). 

     This post, which will be the  CAGNY bulletin for March 12,   is not on that crucial topic.  It is  about the façade that gambling promoters (private and governmental) put up to look sincere and caring. Part of the act is token sums for research (e.g. to National Center for Responsible Gaming); also for secondary* and tertiary**  prevention to  good, small  advocacy agencies like the National Council on Problem Gambling.  [Most tertiary prevention in this country is provided by GA and Gam-Anon, both all-volunteer organizations.  Neither accepts any outside support. ]

     In New York State most of the meager (near-zero, now) funding to prevent problem gambling has come from legislative appropriations to agencies like Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS).   Lottery and tribal casinos don’t contribute directly to statewide treatment and prevention. 

     If the constitution gets amended,  a legislator will surely  ask on behalf of OASAS and the NYS Council on Problem Gambling that some money coming  to the state from the new casinos go to “treatment and prevention of problem gambling.”   Likely some would, at least for a while.  How much, who knows?  Consider, though, that the revenues projected from casinos for 2016 have a much nobler-sounding destiny than treating gambling addicts.  They are supposed to be 90% “to support education”  and 10% to relieve property tax burdens.  If legislators must choose between allocating (say) $5M of the projected $150M  to counseling for problem gamblers or to “education,”  the addicts and their families will lose.  They always have.  Massachusetts announces intent to spend more than any other state. http://preview.tinyurl.com/ckkhy8p  Good luck, Bay State!

     Even if a huge revenue stream dedicated forever to treatment and prevention of problem gambling could be legislated, it would still be too little and too late to undo the mayhem of gambling. When do addicts enter treatment if not compelled by a judge?  When  they’ve  lost  everything.  Lives can be improved by treatment of  problem  gambling, but the clock does not run backwards.

     The best prevention of problem gambling is primary  prevention . A practical facet of this is an ecological strategy — no new casinos.  We have too many “slots”  now.  Vote  NAY on second passage.

     * This writer defines secondary prevention as keeping someone experienced in gambling who is not yet a problem gambler from turning into one (e.g. “Responsible Gaming” education, HOPEline signs). **Tertiary prevention is defined as steps (e.g. private counseling with or without 12-step program) to begin and sustain recovery from situations that meet at least some criteria for pathological or problem gambling.

    The opinions in this post are those of the writer,  Stephen Q. Shafer MD MPH,  and do not necessarily reflect those of any or all members of CAGNY. Permission is granted to reproduce in whole or part while acknowledging the source using the permalink above.

The Central Statistic of Casino Profits

The_Goose_That_Laid_the_Golden_Eggs_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_19994.jpg  from Wiki

The_Goose_That_Laid_the_Golden_Eggs_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_19994.jpg from Wiki

When Governor Cuomo in 2012  proposed  new commercial casinos he said they would need regulation.  Casino promoters can’t dismiss the concept,  which  has several aims.  One specific to casinos is to mitigate gambling addiction and problem gambling.*  Promoters don’t deny these  can be outcomes of   “gaming.”  Another goal of regulation, applied also to the banking or securities industries, is to protect investors and tax-collecting entities against in-house predatory practices, organized crime and tax dodges.

Casino owners want regulation of how they handle consumers and accounting about as much as do big banks or brokerages: the least possible.   In any business, regulation hurts profits by constraining practices (say, payday loans) and limiting externalities.  For example, a company no longer free to discharge waste into a waterway faces new costs; raising prices may lose it business if competitors don’t raise theirs too.   Casinos are uniquely  intent on profit for its own sake. For them, that’s the be-all and the end-all.   Typical  industries, even those as controversial as “Big Pharma” or “Big Oil” make a product of real use to someone.  The casino business has only one tangible product,  in which it cannot take pride:  addicted and problem gamblers.  That product fuels it.

The central  statistic  of  casinos:  a  large proportion  (Grinols and Omorow** estimated 35-50%)  of  the  gross returns after winnings are paid out comes from compulsive and  problem gamblers — about 4% of the adult population — who comprise maybe 12.5%  of casino users.  Most of that 35-50% is from addicted gamblers.   From this statistic comes

The central dilemma :  if  casino owners  acted effectively to steer  into lasting recovery all pathological and problem gamblers in their sphere and  to prevent the creation of new ones,  profits would  drop by at least 35%.  How would that play on the bottom line?  Not well at all.

Resolution: publicly express concern on problem gambling but make it go on  under a façade of “prevention”  methods structured to fail.   Accede to customized and toothless “regulation” that won’t interfere with the real business.

Recall the goose that laid the golden eggs.  Casinos do not lay the golden eggs their promoters claim; they are gilded base metal.  Whether the bird’s owner knows this or not,  whether  he stores or markets the eggs,  the owner (assuming  he has more common sense than the yokel in the story, who killed it) will cosset the bird.  He won’t let  anyone  change her diet or re-house her.  To an owner eager for  eggs that look golden, regulation threatens the health of  the goose,  jeopardizing  her output.

Legislators weighing the proposed amendment in New York State to legalize new casinos must ask three questions. “Would those casinos knock themselves out  to profit 35%-50% less than many others do?” That’s obvious: No

“Do I really believe NYS can and will properly regulate casinos if they don’t want it?”    Someone very credulous might say so.  No one else will.

“Is it fair to NYS residents to commend to them, by an “Aye” on second passage,  a sham I don’t believe in.”  The response to that should be a third NO.

*These two categories of  “disordered gambling behavior”  are distinct.  About 1% of North American adults are past-year pathological (addicted)  gamblers, another 3% or so past-year problem gamblers. Sometimes for brevity (not clarity) the two categories are lumped into “Problem Gambling.”

** Grinols, Earl L. and J.D. Omorow (1997) “Development or Dreamfield Delusions? Assessing Casino Gambling’s Costs and Benefits.”   Journal of Law and Commerce 16, 1, 49-87.

The opinions are those of the writer, Stephen Q. Shafer and do not necessarily reflect those of all members of Coalition Against Gambling in New York.  Permission is granted to quote from this post at any length or to reproduce the entire post as long as the source is cited using the permalink above.

 

 

 

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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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