Millions Addicted to Gambling, Social Costs Mounting

Upon returning from a trip to Reno, Nevada, last week, I asked myself this question: Why do state and local governments bend over backwards to accommodate the commercial gambling industry?

Every morning in the lobby of my hotel I witnessed dozens of people totally mesmerized, shoving coin after coin into slot machines. The stench of cigarette smoke was so strong in the lobby and elevators that it made them difficult to use.

It didn't matter what time of day it was, people were there — entranced, sitting zombie-like in front of the slots, wasting their money. What really surprised me was that the majority of these people, in my opinion, didn't look like they could afford to gamble. Many were retirement age; and other middle-aged gamblers appeared destitute.

Yet state and local governments across the nation go to great lengths to accommodate the professional gambling industry, giving them the green light to promote and expand their trade. Many state governments are already indirectly involved in gambling by promoting and offering lotteries to the general public. I have witnessed poor people buying lottery tickets, at the expense of their family. (These same people will buy food with food stamps, then turn around and buy lotto tickets with what little cash they have.)

Consider some facts offered by Focus on the Family:

Crime rates in casino communities are 84 percent higher than the national average (U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 15, 1996)

The state of Wisconsin, which boasts casinos operated by Indian tribes, experiences an average of 5,300 additional major crimes and 17,100 additional arrests for less serious crimes due to the presence of casinos in the state. (Reported by the University of Nevada-Las Vegas researchers in the Wisconsin Policy Research Report, November 1996.)

The total number of crimes within a 30-mile radius of Atlantic City, New Jersey, increased by 107 percent in the nine years following the introduction of casinos in that city. (Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency)

The National Gambling Impact Study (June 1999) concluded there are 15 to 20 million problem and pathological gamblers in America (approximately 5 to 6 percent of the population).

In my home state of California, the government has not tried to determine what are the related effects of an industry that does not generate anything worthwhile (whether as a good or service). And as with most government-approved vices — alcohol and hard-core pornography, for example — there are social and economic costs.

Gaming promoters will tell you differently. I'm sure they will say their industry provides jobs that benefit the general welfare of the public. And representatives from Indian tribes will tell you that gaming benefits the Native Indian population itself. They may also feel that the economic benefits derived act as an equalizer from past transgressions perpetrated by white/European-Americans upon the Indian population.

Again, spokesmen for gaming interests continue to ignore the huge costs that gambling places on individuals, on families and family members, and on communities. In addition, the FBI has reported in times past that gambling is the second-greatest source of revenue for organized crime (usually behind illegal drugs). Individuals who get hooked on gambling usually hurt other family members in a variety of ways, including economic deprivation, social neglect, severe emotional swings (caused by gambling debt pressures) and, finally, social dysfunction. I knew of one son who had to secure a new, significantly larger real-estate mortgage loan for his retired mother because her gambling debts had grown so much!

Even some television networks are adding to the chaos. I never thought in my lifetime that I would see the day when national television networks would devote programming time to playing poker. Now ESPN, the Travel Channel, and several other outlets provide hour-long programs on gambling and betting events.

If you or your family gleans anything from this article, I hope it's this: being habitually lured by the promise of winnings from gambling is simply throwing your hard-earned money away. While you MIGHT indeed “win” sometimes, rest assured, in the end, you are the loser. Even the gambling industry knows that you might “take the House” but the “House” always wins.

(James L. Lambert, a frequent contributor to Agape Press, is the author of Porn in America (Huntington House), which can be purchased through the American Family Association. He is a licensed real-estate mortgage-loan sales agent and can be contacted through his website. This article courtesy of Agape Press.)

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