By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Another ugly truth about casinos

If you haven’t seen it, I want to call your attention to a terrific story on the front page of today’s Boston Globe about the effects of casino gambling. According to reporter Stephen Smith, the rate of gambling addiction is twice as high as it would otherwise be among people who live within 50 miles of a casino. Smith writes:

Psychiatrists and compulsive behavior specialists have shown that gambling can turn addictive in much the same way that alcohol or illicit drugs do, through a process in which the brain causes the dependence and then is damaged by it. Gamblers can be treated — with counseling, medication, and 12-step programs — but success is far from guaranteed. A year after entering treatment, studies suggest, about half of gamblers return to the slots and gaming tables.

How many times have you heard casino proponents say that people are going to gamble anyway, and that Massachusetts might as well benefit from the tax revenue that’s now going to Connecticut? In case there was any doubt, now we know: That’s less than a half-truth.

And look at where our population centers are. If Gov. Deval Patrick’s plan for casinos in Western Massachusetts, Southeastern Massachusetts and north of Boston comes to pass, then at least two-thirds of state residents — maybe more — will be within 50 miles of a casino.

Over at Blue Mass. Group, Charley Blandy links to a Boston Business Journal editorial that’s dripping with disdain for Patrick’s view that building casinos equals economic development. My favorite line: “We now have a governor who defends a major policy initiative on the basis that it won’t be ‘the end of civilization.’ What an endorsement for setting the stage for ruining more lives to gambling.”

My standard disclosure.

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  1. Anonymous

    Dan, I’ve been waiting all day for you to do an entry on today’s Globe story so I could call attention to this abusrd passage:”In an interview, Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, the Massachusetts secretary of health and human services, said that as part of Patrick’s proposal, casinos would have to post signs warning patrons about the addictive propensity of wagering and train employees to spot troubled gamblers and direct them to addiction treatment.”Right. That’ll work. We’ll all sleep better knowing the blackjack dealers are keeping an eye out for compulsive gamblers and suggesting they get help whenever they spot one. If, that is, any of them make it past those warning signs.Let me put that another way: Bigby’s remarks and her support of the governor’s casino plan are disgraceful. She should resign as secretary of health and human services.

  2. SisterCoyote

    I don’t have a dog in this fight (I live in Nevada and I definitely consider gambling addiction to be a problem), but I have a question about the statement “the rate of gambling addiction is twice as high as it would otherwise be among people who live within 50 miles of a casino.”Is the assumption that this doubled rate is a result of increased gambling among those who already lived in the area when the casino went in? If so, was any control done for the possibility that persons with a tendency to gambling addiction might have moved to be within 50 miles of a casino?

  3. Anonymous

    I have to say I’m increasingly puzzle by your growing mania with this issue. I, personally, don’t have much of an issue with casinos either for or against provided the communities involved are in favor of having on. It’s clear that the Middleborough is wrong and should be opposed because the residents of M’boro and surrounding towns are against it and not for any moral judgment about gambling. Every argument you’ve made about casino gambling could (and is) applied to alcohol. Are you for prohibition? Living in downtown Boston, I see what alcohol can do to those who can’t resist is. Does that provide a basis to prohibit everyone from imbibing? Would you outlaw cigarettes? Personally, I would since there is no conceivable “benefit” of smoking and a clear, measurable cost. Used as directed, it kills. But that’s an entirely different argument than that against gambling or drinking. The later two are perfectly harmless to the vast majority of people and only harmful to those who have some personality quirk. People have addictive compulsions. It’s a fact. But it’s a minority of people. A vast minority, I’d venture. I, myself, don’t understand the lure of gambling, but I also have no problem with those who do find that activity enjoyable. Maybe you could explain to me what the issue is and why gambling is so different from alcohol. If a town or city wants it, why not? I’m getting a little tired of the nanny state. I’ve been on this earth for 50 years, I know my limits.

  4. Don (no longer) Fluffy

    . . . but WHEN I win, I’ll never have to work again. It’s my dream. Don’t stomp on my dream.

  5. Wes

    Casinos do indeed sound like a desire for alchemy; certainly getting something for very little. Pipe dreams all.The idea of “adult entertainment” is a wee clue to the ambience the promoters hope to install.Friends from Conneticut say they made a deal with the devil hoping for mega bucks of easy dough.

  6. Anonymous

    “Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, the Massachusetts secretary of health and human services” probably got the post due to the bang up job she did on the mayor’s weight….

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