Gambling


"...But before lawmakers listen to the siren song of a gambling industry that has invested heavily in campaign contributions and top-dollar lobbyists, they might want to visit Montague County to learn what life is like for lower-income Texans who no longer have to drive to an Indian reservation or fly to Las Vegas to gamble... "In Montague County there are no movie theaters, no museums, no bowling alleys, no roller rinks, and few sit-down restaurants. Nevertheless, in addition to Dice's, there are at least four other mini-casinos operating in the county... Montague's elementary shcool sits directly across the street [from one]...

""People here can't buy gasoline and gamble at the same time," says Fenogio. "The kind of people that play these machines don't have a lot of money to begin with"... the rise of the mini-casinos has coincided with the decline of the county's fortunes.

"...It's no coincidence that both meth labs and game rooms are prospering simultaneously. Suppliers in both fields have succeeded by attracting customers in search of the same basic thing -- a cheap blast of stimulation. The New York Times Sunday Magazine recently ran a story about the new wave of video slot machines. Howard Shaffer, the director of Harvard Medical School's division on addictions, noted that video slot machines affect the brain in the same way as "psychostimulants, like cocaine or amphetamines."

"In Montague County, social service providers are beginning to recognize the fallout of the game rooms.... frequently receives phone calls from people asking for help paying their utility bills or buying groceries. Later, Brooks sees the same people with their cars parked outside the game rooms.

"...They think that if they win, their problems will go away. But instead, their problems are just getting worse.

"... for certain people, the constant temptation of living near the machines has been overwhelming. "You can see people sitting int here all day long," says Brooks. "It creates a problem of addiction"...

""I've seen people put $300 or $400 in those machines going after a $50 pot," says Shelton. "They max out their credit cards. They can't pay their bills. These people need protection. They can't do it themselves"" (Gillette, Felix. "Texas Hold'em." The Texas Observer, 7/16/04: 8-11, 19).


"...so-called video lottery terminals... Supporters of VLTs--which resemble slot machines--lump them with other "sin" taxes... Unlike cigarette or "adult entertainment" taxes, which tax existing practices, VLTs create a new and costly vice...

"VLTs don't target casual gamblers and occasional lottery players; revenues from VLTs depend on addicts... A study... found that VLTs create pathological addiction nearly four times faster than other popular games of chance... fully 75 percent of addicts treated in the Rhode Island program are addicted to slot machinees or their electronic equivalents.

"Gambling supporters often put forward the morally dubious argument that gambling doesn't cause unhealthy behaviors, just takes advantage of them. Most pathological gamblers, they say, already suffer from depression, alcoholism, or other mental problems. No so, Breen found: the typical addict in his study was a middle-aged professional with a family...

"Much of this hidden "tax" is shunted to local governments. According to research... casinos create crime in surrounding areas. Griols estimates one pathological gambler can cost local governments more than $13,000 for illness, addiction treatment, incarceration, and costs related to crime and bankruptcy. Taxpayers in areas surrounding casinos pay roughly $3 for every $1 of gambling revenue" ("Through the Looking Glass." Texas Observer, 5/7/04: 10-11, 22-23).


Getting Something for Nothing

"Americans have always been risk-takers... Today, for a growing number of Americans, risk-taking has been reduced to little more than gambling...

"American are now spending more money on gambling than on movies, videos, DVDs, music, and books combined...

"Gambling has fast become the national pastime...

"Gambling, like drugs, has become a dangerous addiction... Both cater to the need for instant gratification...

"The desire for instant success has become p[ervasive across American culture. Legal gambling... the stock market... the new genre of TV reality shows...

"We... spend much of our time wishing for success but are unwilling to "pay our dues" with the kind of personal commitment required" (28-30)...

"..the American Dream would seem to be cocooning even further into the promotion of narrow self-interest" (Jeremey Rifkin. The European Dream. pp 28-30).


Colby Glass, MLIS