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.