Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Some Numbers on Gambling Addiction

A landmark 1999 study commissioned by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, which was established by Congress, estimated that 5.5 million Americans had serious addictions to wagering. The study also found that 4.4 percent of people living within 50 miles of a casino reported serious wagering problems in their lifetimes. That compared with 2.1 percent of those living 51 to 250 miles from a casino, said Rachel A. Volberg, a Northampton, Mass., researcher involved with the national report.

From the Globe. Obviously, the argument that we already have the lottery - and therefore don't have to worry about addiction - is flawed. There's something about slot machines that fuels addiction, whether people are willing to admit it or not. Legalizing Class III casinos within 50 miles of a home literally doubles the chances of someone becoming addicted to gambling. It's called enabling, folks. Furthermore, 4.4 percent of the population is not some small number - that's almost 1 in 20. Governor Patrick's plan would literally create hundreds of thousands of new addicts, just what this state needs.

Some people are against banning things because there's a chance of addiction, but it's important to remember three things. First, gambling isn't banned - there are other options in Massachusetts already, as well as all over New England. By keeping slots remote, we're allowing the population to gamble at casinos in ways that are far more safe and fun, safe from having to worry nearly as much about addiction because of close proximity. Secondly, we ban all sorts of the most addictive activities, even though I doubt significantly more people would fall victim to legalized drugs than legalized slot machines. Because of the risk of addiction in both cases, we regulate gambling in the same way that we do drugs - banning the worst forms and placing restrictions on the lesser evils.

Finally, beyond all of these matters of addiction, there are even more powerful arguments against casinos - such as the fiscal stability of Massachusetts. Yet, it's important to examine just how huge the problem Governor Patrick willingly proposes to create will become: it will destroy the lives of tens of thousands of Massachusetts citizens. Surely, we can create new revenue that will benefit everyone, can't we?

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