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.

CAGNY’s Message to Legislators on One Page

 

Goya: El Sueno de Razon

Goya: El Sueno de Razon

      When CAGNY members visit legislators in Albany on Feb 5, here is what we will say about the Governor’s proposal  to amend the state constitution (Article I sec 9 and allow up to seven new commercial casinos: 

     Half  the revenue of casinos and large lotteries is from pathological ( addicted) and problem gamblers.  They  seldom own what they drop.  It has usually been diverted from someone else (e.g. spouse) who has equal or better right to it (e.g. mortgage payment).  These are  “abused dollars.”  Some of the money lost by these gamblers comes from outright crime, a later recourse for many pathological gamblers beyond taking from intimates or dependents  who might not prosecute.

    Thus half the revenue government gets from gambling is passed to it from gamblers’ losses,  staked by deceitful diversion or outright thefts from someone other than the gambler.  The multiplier for “other”  is 8-fold.  For every pathological or problem gambler, 8 other people, often  children,  are deprived of something valuable, not limited to money.

    When government facilitates or sponsors gambling to balance the budget,  it exploits not only the dis-control of  some  gamblers but the miserable situation of their families and close associates.  For government to overlook  this  injury to persons —including children— around the gambler treats  them as expendable.

    Even if someone thinks gambling addicts deserve to live damaged lives or to self-end them, he or she cannot wish the same fate on the gambler’s near and once-dear.  More than dollars are abused.  Domestic violence, physical, and emotional injury are common in the circles of gambling addicts and problem gamblers.  Suicide harms, not one person, but many.

    Fear, distance, abstraction can make other humans expendable to the best of us.  The story should be different, however, when the people to be made expendable are not remote and when the people doing the expending are in our state government.  We who oppose the constitutional amendment  say “No  New Yorker is expendable.”  

                                               VOTE  NAY  ON SECOND PASSAGE

    The text of the amendment of Art I §9 that would go to referendum must be the same as S 6734.  Implementing language must be approved by the legislature, though who will draft it and when is not clear.  A vote for second passage gives no security to a legislator or to the voters at referendum on these key points, any or all of which could be changed in a later session:

  • Timetable of building the “no more than seven” casinos
  • Locations and size  Could a new casino double its gambling floorspace three years later?
  • “Home Rule” What level of social organization (e.g. village, town, county, state) will make decisions about same or different levels close by (e.g. village inside a town).  Who speaks, who votes?
  • Rate for property tax and for tax on casino income payable  to state and sub-state levels.
  • Funding for “prevention and treatment.”  

    The sleep of reason brings forth nightmares:  a worst case scenario could put five or six big casinos in or very near the Greater Metropolitan Area, leading to eighty thousand new gambling addicts  and 200,000 new problem gamblers.  Or, think of this:  Would it be socially just,  if all the town boards in a county but one voted against a casino,   to  put one in the lone holdout township? 

                                         VOTE  NAY  ON SECOND  PASSAGE