If the casino comes to town

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Aerial view of proposed Tyre casino site April 7 2015,

Remarks by Robert H. Steele   at the Stop Predatory Gambling National Day of Action event in Geneva NY,  26 September 2015,  Geneva is a few miles from Tyre, NY

“Although I’m from Connecticut, I should to tell you at the start that I feel a special connection to the Finger Lakes region for two reasons. First, because my wife went to Wells College on Lake Cayuga and I spent many, many enjoyable weekends here getting to know the area. And second, we in CT are very familiar with the Wilmorite group, because it financed an effort to open an Indian casino in Connecticut. That effort ultimately failed because the tribe in question could not prove it qualified for federal recognition.

I also appreciate your interest in my book – The Curse: Big-Time Gambling’s Seduction of a Small New England Town. The book is a fact-based novel set against the explosion of casino gambling in Connecticut during the 1990s, when Congress and the courts opened the door to the construction of the world’s two biggest casinos in the southeastern corner of my state.

In the end, The Curse is a cautionary tale about a small, quintessential Connecticut town that faces a Faustian dilemma in which it must choose between preserving its character and values or accepting an enormously seductive offer that would change the town forever – in other words, a story that has played out in one way or another in hundreds of communities across America and is playing out in Tyre today.

In 2013, the Institute for American Values, an independent think tank in New York, released a landmark report about the impact the spread of casino gambling is having on the nation.

The report began with this powerful statement:

“From time to time in American history, a new institution takes root across the country, and in doing so, changes the nation—changes the physical landscape of communities, impacts the patterns and habits of daily life, and affects citizens’ and communities’ economic outcomes…Something of this magnitude is now occurring in the United States. It is the spread of casinos.”

For many local people, the first thing that would probably come to mind in hearing this opening statement is the way Wilmorite’s proposed $425 million Tyre casino would impact the physical environment – including the nearby [Montezuma] National Wildlife refuge, federal and state protected species and habitat, as well as traffic congestion, noise, and air quality. The developer and key local officials evidently thought so little of these issues that they tried to get by with a slipshod environmental impact study, but in a stinging rebuff, the N.Y. State Court of Appeals ruled that their study did not meet state requirements.

As important as the environmental impact would be, however, I would like to zero in on the social and economic impact of what is being proposed for Tyre, using what is happening in Connecticut and elsewhere as background.

Connecticut’s two casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, got off to blistering starts. With no significant competition other than in Atlantic City, 250 miles away, they quickly grew into the two biggest casinos on the planet, drawing more than half their combined customers from out of state, creating over 20,000 casino jobs, and sending hundreds of millions of dollars a year in slot revenues to the state treasury.

Today, however, the bloom is off the rose for Connecticut’s casinos as the Northeast fills up with competing casinos, fewer and fewer out-of-staters come to CT to gamble, and the out-of- state money that fueled CT’s gambling boom, and that of other early casino states, increasingly dries up.

Thanks to the growing competition, the combined revenue for CT’s two casinos is already down 38% from its peak. The casinos have eliminated 8,000 jobs and have been increasingly replacing full-time jobs with part-time jobs to reduce wage costs and eliminate medical benefits, while Foxwoods has stopped all profit-sharing payments to its tribal owners and is mired in debt.

The story is similar elsewhere, with growing competition cutting into the profits of casinos and changing the dynamics of the casino business in more and more states. For example, Delaware has had to put millions of dollars toward bailing out its 3 casinos, while New Jersey has spent hundreds of millions trying to prop up its casinos, only to see a third of them close in the past 20 months. In Ohio and Maryland, casino revenue is roughly 40% below original projections.

As the casinos’ profits slide, we have also been getting a clearer picture of the overall economic and social downside of what has happened in Connecticut.

First, with less out of state money coming in, an increasing percentage of the casinos’ profits and resulting state revenue is coming from the gambling losses of Connecticut residents, resulting in what Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Samuelson called “the sterile transfer of money” from one group to another without creating any net new value.

Second, even with all the out-of-state money that came in in the past, the Connecticut casinos did little to create spin-off businesses, but did cannibalize other businesses.

One example of cannibalization actually involved a good friend of mine who owned one of the region’s most successful restaurants and who I never saw more excited than when one of the casinos opened nearby. He thought the casino would be great for his business, that with all the people coming down from Boston and up from New York, surely hundreds of them would stop at his restaurant every week.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way, and I remember what he told me when he closed his restaurant because of competition from the casinos. “I have to admit,” he said sadly, “that I had no idea how the casinos actually work. But now I understand. People drive to the casinos, play at the casinos, go to shows at the casinos, stay at the casino hotels, eat at the casino restaurants, and then fill up their gas tanks at the casino gas stations and drive home. We as local merchants rarely see any of them.”

As casino mogul Steve Wynn once told a group of Connecticut businessmen when he was trying to put a casino in Bridgeport: “Get it straight, there is no reason on earth for any of you to expect for more than one second that just because (people come to my casino) they are going to run into your store or restaurant.”

And third, there is little evidence that casinos ultimately strengthen state or local government finances. Connecticut receives 25% of its casinos’ slots profits, which has provided the state with over $6 ½ billion in revenue in the past 22 years. Yet CT today is in the worst financial shape in its history, with a lagging economy and the third worst debt and unfunded liability ratio of any state.

And then there are the social issues.

For starters, the casinos have created a pervasive gambling culture in southeastern CT and they were followed by a steep increase in the number of CT residents seeking treatment for gambling addiction, with an attendant increase in debt, bankruptcies, broken families and crime.

One of the most remarkable findings from a 2009 state-sponsored study was that there had been a 400% increase in arrests for embezzlements in Connecticut since the casinos opened, a rate of increase 10 times the national average.

One of the embezzlers, incidentally, was my tax collector in the town of Ledyard, where Foxwoods is located. She stole $302,000 from tax receipts to play the slots at Foxwoods. And of course she didn’t win. Indeed, statistically it is almost impossible to win when the casino takes up to 10% of everything you bet over time. I should note that the embezzler, who was sentenced to prison, had a pristine record as an individual and public servant before she became hooked on slots.

There were so many embezzlement cases in southeastern Connecticut, in fact, that a columnist for the New London Day newspaper described the region as the embezzlement capital of America.

Recent embezzlement stories range from a Bridgeport elementary school principal charged with taking $10 thousand in student funds to gamble at Mohegan Sun to the chief financial officer of the town of Winchester, Connecticut stealing over $2 million from that town and losing much of it at the state’s casinos. The Winchester embezzlement was so serious that there was talk of the town having to temporarily close its school system.

Looking at crime overall, a 2014 study from Western CT State University shows that the number of violent crimes (including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault) increased in nearby towns after the casinos opened DESPITE A SHARP DROP in violent crime nationally and CT as a whole, while interviews with local police and judicial officials indicated increases in non-violent crimes such as prostitution and illicit drug use.

As far back as 1997, Congress became so concerned about the spread of casino gambling that it set up a National Commission to study the issue. Based on its findings, the Commission recommended that there be a moratorium on opening new casinos until the government could get a better handle on their social and economic costs.

But the recommendation was never implemented, and casinos have continued to multiply as state governments have invited them into their states to raise revenue without having to openly raise taxes.

In the process, casino gambling has become a $67 billion industry, with casinos arguing that they spur economic development and provide state and local governments with much-needed money.

But both economic studies and experience refute those arguments.

In fact, looking at all the evidence, the 2013 Institute for American Values report concludes that the regional and local casinos springing up across the nation drain wealth from communities, weaken nearby businesses, hurt property values, and reduce civic participation, family stability, and other forms of social capital that are at the heart of a successful society.

At this point, one might think states would begin to recognize the shortsightedness of depending on casino revenue. But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, state after state has become so hooked on casino money that it is seeking to expand gambling either to increase gambling revenue or replace the gambling revenue it is losing to cross-border competition.

And that is precisely what is happening in CT. The state began by increasing Foxwoods’ and Mohegan Sun’s FREE PLAY ALLOWANCE so they could beef up promotions and attract more customers; the state legalized the casino game KENO for restaurants, bars, and convenience stores, and the legislature has passed a bill which would allow construction of the state’s third casino and which could quickly lead to two more casinos after that.

Casino expansion advocates argue that the so called “convenience” casinos would help keep CT gamblers from going to MA and NY to gamble and thereby protect CT casino jobs and revenue. What they carefully avoid discussing, is that one or more new casinos would create thousands of new Connecticut gamblers and encourage current Connecticut gamblers to gamble more frequently, leaving CT residents with even less money for other goods and services and further adding to the state’s social problems.

Moreover, with both government and investors constantly pushing for new ways to make money from gambling, there is no reason to think that CT’s gambling expansion would stop there.

For example:

Video slots are beginning to spread beyond casinos into local neighborhoods in many states. There are now some 12,000 video slot machines at so-called “lottery delis” in Oregon, and more than 20,000 video slots at bars, restaurants, truck stops, fraternal clubs, gaming cafes, and even 2 flower shops in Illinois.

Next, there is a strong effort underway to expand legalized sports betting in the United States, including on daily Fantasy Sports.

And finally, thanks to a 2011 U.S. Justice Department ruling, New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada have legalized in-state online betting for their casinos, and other states, including NY, are considering legalizing Internet gambling as well.

In short, the lesson across the country, and the lesson we are increasingly learning in Connecticut, is that each new expansion of legalized gambling is followed by increased pressure for still more gambling, and the only way to stop it is for individual citizens like you and me to stand up and say to our government leaders: STOP!

STOP trying to expand gambling in my state and trying to bring it into my community.

Stopping it is admittedly an enormous challenge – a true David and Goliath fight. The casino developers and gambling promoters have enormous financial resources which they use to dominate the public debate, gain political and government support, and overwhelm the opposition, while average citizens typically have little money with which to fight back.

For instance, in last fall’s statewide referendum in Massachusetts on whether to repeal the law allowing casinos in that state, casino interests ran a reported 4,000 TV ads in the last month of the campaign in a successful effort to kill repeal, while those supporting repeal were unable to afford any TV time. Then this summer, the developer seeking to put a casino in Brockton, MA reportedly outspent a coalition of churches, civic groups and individuals by 450-1 in order to win a narrow victory there.

Yet, remarkably, casino opponents have recently won important victories in which they (1) stopped casinos from being legalized in New Hampshire, (2) defeated efforts to expand casino gambling in Rhode Island and (3) beat back casino proposals in Newport, RI; in West Springfield, Palmer, Milford, Tewksbury, Worcester, and East Boston, MA; and in Albany, East Greenbush, and Tuxedo, NY.

One of the saddest aspects about your battle against the proposed Tyre casino is the extent to which the developer has gone to try to keep you from speaking out against its proposal. Here is a giant real estate corporation which is spending a fortune on an army of designers, engineers, lawyers, consultants and publicists to break into Tyre to further enrich itself, yet criticizes Casino Free Tyre for trying to raise a modicum of money to defend its town.

It is truly an act of monumental hypocrisy and demonstrates how worried the developer is about your ability to persuade others to actively join your fight and demonstrate to the State Gaming Commission how strong the opposition among everyday citizens is to the proposed casino. Hopefully the casino advocates’ tactics will encourage you to redouble your efforts to speak out, to recruit your neighbors, to reiterate your opposition to the casino to the Gaming Commission and town and county officials, and to support Town Board candidates who oppose the casino.

In defeating the casino in Palmer, MA, opponents used the slogan “The more you know about casinos, the less you’ll like them,” and used every possible means to explain to the community what casinos are really all about.

The opponents did a particularly good job of getting across the predatory nature of casinos, pointing out that multiple independent studies show that roughly half of a typical casino’s gambling profits come via problem gamblers, whether the money is their own, or they have begged, borrowed, or taken it from others. In other words, that the casino industry’s very business model is dependent upon preying on addicted gamblers.

That’s the nature of the business they want to bring to your community.

Palmer’s slogan pretty much said it all. “The more you know about casinos, the less you’ll like them.”

Thanks very much.”

Permission is hereby granted to reproduce the above text  in whole or in part as long as the permalink is cited and the speaker, Robert H. Steele, is credited.

Mr. Steele, a Connecticut businessman, is a former Representative to Congress from Connecticut who recently joined the Board of Stop Predatory Gambling.

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.

 

“Sorry, So Sorry”

quickDraw_playcard 

 

 

 

 A real-life narrative about Quick Draw

 

 

 

 

 

 

In describing certain measures the  nascent  Responsible Play Partnership proposes to police gambling by under-age persons, the RPP states  tamely “violations could result in fines, suspensions or revocation of an entity’s license.”  The verb is “could,” not even “may,”  much less “will.”   The url for the press release about the RPP is shown below. http://www.gaming.ny.gov/pdf/press_022013.pdf 

     The following true story instances  a  shocking lack of  oversight  circa 2002-2008 of the  lucrative New York State Lottery “game” Quick Draw in one small city.  It could be entitled “ ‘Regulation’  In Action;”   alternatively,  “Regulation  Inaction.”  Considering that legislation is pending as of March 2013 to relax rules about Quick Draw,  more stories like this – if not quite as infamous – may be expected unless regulatory policy can get out of the conditional mood.

 

Summary: a Quick Draw addict with unfettered access to his stepdaughter’s earned fortune gambled away a large part of it “playing” at a favorite bar.  The local  newspaper  investigated how the bar’s owner  could have permitted this abuse of trust to run  for years. The owner then  surrendered the QD license. This ended official enquiry.   Three years later he told the Lottery Licensing authorities that the newspaper had maligned him for political purposes.  The license was restored without investigation.

 

      From mid-1998 well into 2002 the Speak Easy Bar at 557 Pearl St. Watertown NY had an habitué who played Quick Draw there  over and over and over – and over.  A real estate agent, he was locally famous as the stepfather of a high-paid supermodel who had grown up in Watertown.  Not everyone in town, however,  knew he had induced her in 1998 to have him replace the outside financial manager she had recently taken on.  

     In 2002, after four years of near-daily multi-hour “play” the Quick Draw aficionado started to bounce checks.  According to the local  newspaper, instead of warning him to stop playing or (within their rights) prosecuting him, the owners of the Speak Easy Bar and of other Quick Draw locales in town borrowed money from their friends to let him keep “playing”  until he could cover the bad checks. They of course were profiting from his losses.  In fact the owner of the Speak Easy had received a “Top Agent Award”  from Lottery in 2001.

     In January 2003 the Quick Draw addict told his stepdaughter that he had been using her money to “play” and had lost a lot of it.   He was prosecuted for writing bad checks.  When he pled guilty to that charge and others in October 2004, his stepdaughter’s  losses 1998-2002 were estimated in documents submitted to the court at 7 million dollars, nearly all of her assets.  In early 2005 the  stepfather was sentenced to prison. After the newspaper ran a story on the bar-owner’s role in enabling the stepfather’s addiction and consequent abuse of entrusted funds, the bar owner “opted to surrender” his Quick Draw license as of March 2005.  This ended  investigation by Lottery. 

     In May 2005, the model brought suit against her stepfather and the bar owner.  After more than a year, the latter was removed as a party.  Later, he changed the name of the bar  and applied to get the Quick Draw license back.

     Writing in  2007  to the Licensing Director of the NY Lottery, the owner of the Speak Easy Bar said that all published charges of his enabling the  gambler’s addiction after bad checks began were false.   His letter, published in the Watertown Daily Times of May 18 stated  “I cut him off  [from Quick Draw at the Speak Easy].”  He did add a sort of apology (quoted below) which implies in the passive voice that someone had failed in a duty to “cut off service.”   This contradicts his assertion that he had refused to allow the habitué to continue Quick Draw at his establishment.

 “Clearly there is a lot to be learned from such an incident, including the need to impose restraint on customers in the same way we would cut off service of alcohol to the obviously compulsive drinker.  There is also a need for those who sell tickets not to get caught up in playing such games.  I understand that. “ 

After no investigation Quick Draw was re-installed at 557 Pearl Street  in early May 2008.  Just ask in town for “The Mayor’s Bar.”

Notes: For a description of keno (the generic name of  Quick Draw) go to http://preview.tinyurl.com/awf3yvb

The opinions in this post are those of the writer, Stephen Q. Shafer MD MPH, and are not necessariy shared by any or all other members of CAGNY.  Permission is given here to quote from this piece at any length as long as the source is made clear using the permalink address above. 

 

Forgotten collateral damage from government-in-gambling

from Flickr CC

from Flickr CC

What do the fourteen vignettes below have in common?  Can you guess  without the links?

1)      A 42 year old man in Michigan came home, fatally shot his pregnant wife and  their  three  children, then  himself.  http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=94936&page=1

2)      A father of two in VA gunned  down wife and son, shot his 11 year old daughter in the head, then killed himself .   Daughter described events (“bad dream” ),  died 3 days later .  http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-671609.html from Washington Post

3)      Father  in NV  left  7 year old daughter  in arcade under eye of her 14 year old brother.  She was raped and strangled in a bathroom by an 18 year old male. http://articles.latimes.com/2000/jul/07/local/me-48999

4)      An Iowa man just-divorced stabbed to death his ex-wife,  an executive at Arthur Anderson in Chicago.  He then drove off  with  their 7 year old daughter (seat-belted), swerved into oncoming truck.  Both were killed.  http://preview.tinyurl.com/bah4e8r

5)      In St Louis, a woman in her  late 20s was not at home when her 11 children died in a house fire.  http://preview.tinyurl.com/afjjftg

6)      Illinois woman reported death of 7-week old daughter due to SIDS, claimed $200,000 life insurance she had taken out on baby.  Fifteen months earlier another daughter had died at age 17 days.   Mother  had stated  SIDS.   http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1998-03-07/news/9803070058_1_insurance-fraud-dina-abdelhaq-sids

7)      Middle-aged Mississippi woman in good neighborhood shot to death husband and her mother while they slept.   http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2002-04-07/business/0204070020_1_neighbors-home-murder

8)      A  natural gas explosion in a house in Indiana when its occupants were out of town killed the couple next door and blew up five houses. tinyurl.com/cztdo5u

9)      A Rochester NY man strangled his fiancée when they quarreled the day before her bridal shower.   http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-157155335.html

10)   A 7 year old boy drowned in backyard  swimming pool at a day care facility.  The operator was off  the premises. http://articles.philly.com/2013-02-15/news/37102173_1_day-care-center-day-care-staff-members-day-care-office

11)   A Philadelphia grandmother was fatally stabbed and her 10-month old grand-daughter smothered by a 26 year old computer whiz who lived in same apt building.  http://articles.philly.com/2012-11-01/news/34838466_1_ransom-note-indian-expats-ransom-payment

12) A 28 year old man in CA was convicted in 2011 of having bludgeoned his parents to death with a bat in 2008 http://preview.tinyurl.com/bfnxy54

13) 92 year old woman in PA stabbed to death in 2011 by neighbor who had probably burgled her house several times before. http://preview.tinyurl.com/b6p4f3r 

14) added October 10 2014.  A 14 year old boy was left to baby-sit his 6-year sister while father went out with his lady friend,  came home much later  to find both unconscious from CO poisoning.  Little girl died in hospital, brother recovering.

The common threads  are gambling addiction and its  peri-gambler victims.  Gambling addiction and  peri-gambler victims are a predictable outcome, not a side effect,  of governmental policy described with much restraint by one notable critic as “failed.”  He might say “ rapacious and uncaring.”  This policy makes gambling legal not primarily to protect people by strict regulation from something harmful,  but to get government a piece of the action,  then grow the action “to support education.”  Thousands of   lives are hurt and dozens lost in this country each year under this policy. The gambling establishment and  compliant governments get away with it by misrepresenting the econometric costs and benefits and at the same time hiding the toll of unquantifiable human misery that is the direct consequence of this policy.

A frequent gambit by supporters of  government-sanctioned gambling is to say that revenue government gets from its sponsorship or “regulation” of gambling is a “sin tax,”  like  revenue from tax on tobacco or on liquor.   Some persons less moralistic, if more arrogant,  call it a “stupidity tax” or a “tax on ignorance.”  Two huge errors in this argument:

First, taxes on tobacco and alcohol are pigovian, meant as much to dampen consumption as to provide revenue.  The government actually spends money to discourage smoking.  It does not advertise that adults should drink more alcohol to get a shot at a better life and “fund education.”   Contrast this with the approach the NYS Lottery has taken in its nine-figure  advertising outlay of recent years.  Contrast it with Gov, Cuomo’s putting  up-front payments from three (?) new casinos in the proposed budget for 2016  before they  have been made legal.  Governments pretend legalized gambling is overall a beneficent enterprise.  They don’t want to impose tough restrictions or regulations ; those would decrease the flow or kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Second,  revenues to government from the sale of cigarettes and alcohol are not extracted from the bank accounts and home furnishings of  the  heavy smoker’s or the alcoholic’s family and friends.  Revenues from gambling are.  Smoking and drinking cause dreadful harm in many ways to non-smokers and non-drinkers.  An alcohol abuser can certainly make bad decisions resulting in injury, death  or  financial loss to someone else.  One cannot say, however, that the government set the stage for  the alcohol abuse, nor that government will get revenue if  an alcoholic in a fog sells his house for half its worth.  Another contrast here:   for most addicted and problem gamblers in the USA,  their loss is the direct gain of   the gambling exchange,  which passes a share to government.  The more they drop, the more the government gets.

Someone may still think of the problem gambler or pathological gambler as stupid or ignorant or sinful, deserving to pay a penalty for those defects.  No one with a heart, however, can think of the gambler’s young children or non-gambling spouse or unsuspecting   business partner  as deserving a penalty.  Yet these others are made to pay it, forward, backward and sideways.  It is paid in dollars, in anguish, and sometimes in death.  It is levied on six eight or ten persons for every problem gambler or addicted gambler.  They are forgotten, made expendable.

Who are the victims of predatory gambling?  Some observers see addicted and problem gamblers as victims themselves; others, as undeserving of pity. I consider problem gamblers victims and sufferers, but focus this essay on the peri-gambler victims.   They are always forgotten by legislative analysts.    Much more numerous than addicted and problem gamblers, they suffer more in the aggregate than the latter.

The  lurid stories above, all involving murder or negligence leading to death,  are among the most horrifying from the United States.  Click on the links it you are strong.  For each one like this, however, there are hundreds more that encompass other types of victimization related to the gambling market driven by government calls for more revenue (invariably “for education”) with “no new taxes.”  For example:

Not everyone who kills himself over gambling met the definition of       current  problem  gambler the day before the act. In the story here, from India in 2009, a 24 year old neophyte gambler  lost the meager savings he had set aside for his wife’s next childbirth http://preview.tinyurl.com/d92wfnt .  A near- suicide is  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=230336.  The gambler used his mother’s credit card to lose $10,000 on-line.  He was 9.

 

In short, government policy to make legalized gambling an ever-growing fount of revenues to itself exploits not only the gamblers, for whom not everyone has much sympathy, but also, in far greater numbers, many people around them for whom everyone must feel compassion.  Sympathy won’t come,  however, until their existence is acknowledged.  The gambling establishment and its supporters in government want to keep it a secret. Groups  like CAGNY and Stop Predatory Gambling have the challenge to shout about it.

“Mercy has a human heart and Pity a human face”   William  Blake, Songs of Innocence

The opinions in this essay are those of the writer, Stephen Q. Shafer MD MPH and do not necessarily reflect those of other members of CAGNY.  This post may be reproduced in part or in its entirety.  Please acknowledge the source using the permalink.

http://cagnyinf.org/wp/2013feb18_forg…nt-in-gambling/

Betting on Sports: not Victimless by a Long Shot

futbol from flickr cc4138211812_9c2f66efbd

futbol from flickr cc
4138211812_9c2f66efbd

 

Comment on a column by James Surowecki  in the New Yorker Feb 11 and 18 2013. I wrote to the magazine on Feb 9.  They have not run it. 

James Surowiecki (Feb 11 and 18) argues that governments should get a piece of the action from betting on sports, now a “crime” with no “real victims.”  In truth there are millions of  victims.   Nine million adults in the U.S. are pathological or problem gamblers.  If  10%  are primarily involved in sports betting,  that makes 900,000 such.  Around each are (say) eight family members or close associates victimized by the gambler’s behaviors.  Some have had their savings diverted; some have had their deepest needs neglected or their bodies abused.  Some have been murdered,  or had their lives torn up by the suicide of a gambling parent or spouse.  Not even counting the gamblers,  then, there are millions of victims.  It is woeful  that sophisticated commentators ignore them.

When government “regulates” gambling to take  the cut that used to go to bookies and bagmen, it is the boss of  a once-illegal exchange that still gets half its profits from hurting innocent (if sometimes co-dependent) people while  it exploits loose-cannon gamblers.  Worse:  always needing revenue, government must grow that now-“legal” exchange.  It must foster new pathological and problem gamblers to boost revenue or at least maintain it by replacing those now out of  the  life.

Proponents of Government-in-Gambling note  that tobacco and alcohol are regulated, Pigovian taxes collected.  “How is ‘regulated’ gambling different?” they ask.  This way: Most governments do not encourage smoking on the grounds it will make the government richer.  They do not urge more alcohol consumption to spare the virtuous a tax increase.   They do not advise parking by hydrants or driving 90 mph to raise more funds.

They do push big-time predatory gambling, hard.  That’s the  difference,  and it is a social injustice.

 

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