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

The folly of casino gambling

There’s a terrific front-page story in today’s New York Times on the sagging fortunes of the casino-gambling industry. Ian Urbina reports that casinos may well be reaching the saturation point, as more and more are chasing the same number of customers.

In New Jersey, legislators have repealed no-smoking regulations in order to entice gamblers. In Illinois, there’s actually a proposal to keep gamblers liquored up with free drinks so they’ll keep blowing their money.

Urbina writes:

“When budgets get tight, expanding gambling always looks to lawmakers like the perfect quick-fix solution,” said John Kindt, a professor of business and legal policy at the University of Illinois who studies the impact of state-sponsored gambling. “But in the end, it so often proves to be neither quick nor a fix.”

Crime jumps 10 percent in areas with casinos, personal bankruptcies soar 18 percent to 42 percent and the number of new gambling addicts doubles, Mr. Kindt said. Predicted state revenue often falls short and plans frequently get tripped up by legal fights or popular opposition, he said.

With Gov. Deval Patrick, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate president Therese “Ka-ching!” Murray expected to make a renewed push for expanded gambling this fall, the Times story is as timely as it is important.

Crime, bankruptcies, addiction — is this what our state leaders want?

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  1. “Crime, bankruptcies, addiction” is this what our state leaders want?.. Gee Dan, i’m pleased to be informed that we dont already have these conditions in Massachusetts. Or in Maine, or in Texas, or name ANY where else.

    Crime probably jumps 10% because employment, and therefore the population grows 10%. Twin Rivers is failing because they borrowed to much money for the buying and improving the broken down building, period. Foxwoods and Mohegun Sun built till there was no tomorrow just as the financial and real estate markets collapsed.

    The states get hooked on the gaming money – you gonna tell me Massachusetts, Connecticut or Rhode Island dont have a bigger habit than their citizens?.

    The problem isn’t “gambling” (though obviously it is for many people, just as are cigarettes, overeating, drugs, drinking, texting & driving, etc).
    The problem is that you’re looking at “gambling” as soley a means to extract revenue for the states.
    To expect one person’s recreationg to be judged on whether it can feed a ton of tax revenue to the larger population is simply an unfair measurment.
    Gambling should be legal because as consenting, hard working adults, people should be allowed to enjoy themselves as they choose.
    The fact that it can be taxed is simply a benefit that the states obviously can’t pass up.

    You think the stock market isn’t a gamble?
    You think the $700 per capita Massachusetts draws from the lottery isn’t a gamble?
    Think a few people bet on football games Dan? Been to a few Bingo games at the local church?

    I don’t hear anyone talking about stopping those industries – and I certainly don’t see the cities and towns refusing the money!

    I deald 21 and craps in Vegas for years. It was a clean, decent paying job and I typically dealt with clean, decent paying customers
    who, for the most part, were having the time of their life.

    So is expanding gamling bad because it is is gambling? no.
    It is a problem with those states that have mismanaged their economies and have no place left to turn.

    To pick out a few extreme and nonsensical examples like New Jersey is going to make people smoke, or Illinois is going to keep them drunk” is not at all representative of “gambling” – that wasn’t the casinos who you were referring to, that was their legislators!

    PLEASE, spare me.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Gambling should be legal because as consenting, hard working adults, people should be allowed to enjoy themselves as they choose.

      How far down that road would you like to go, Bob? Would you legalize crystal meth? Prostitution? If not, why not?

  2. NEWShound

    It is so wrong to exploit people in our society with predatory practices. All of the money from gambling comes from the same society and same economy we are trying to support. It produces absolutely nothing except for overpriced, immoral entertainment.

    At best, it is economic neutral, and it is never, nor can it ever be that good unless illegally gambling with friends in a private living room.

    I know this is being at least a little subjective, but I can’t help but wonder if gamblers are more likely to smoke than the general population, if they are more likely to have financial problems, more likely to suffer, or at least those in contact with them, from alcohol or other addictions, and just may be in the higher percentile of those who are uninsured or underinsured for medical care.

    I wonder, too, if the gamblers as a group fall into a higher percentage than the overall population of those collecting Social Security disability.

    If we seek a better society, improved civilization, the answer doesn’t appear to be with gambling.

    President Truman liked to play poker with, reportedly, a token amount of money and I suppose that is okay if kept within a few dollars in a private living room, although perhaps illegal.

    Senator McCain is one who can afford to lose all but his shirt gambling but he is so irresponsible with his addiction and foolishness I wouldn’t feel that badly if he actually lost his shirt. Not that he is a bad person, but he should know better and set a better example.

    I hope our political leaders do not prostitute our state’s values and morals.

  3. Now I dont know if it’s the illegal & immoral behavior were concerned with or if “it’s okay behavior when it’s illegal” or “nor can it ever be that good unless illegally gambling with friends”. “It produces absolutely nothing except for overpriced, immoral entertainment”.. I guess the hundreds of millions who enjoy that recreation simply don’t live up to your standards. Well I guess i’ve just met my first saint.

  4. Newshound

    Newshound doesn’t recklessly allocate money which at the present might appear to be excess, into gambling.

    It is, instead, responsibly saved and attempted to be invested (not speculated) wisely and if at some later time is needed for medical care, housing, or other essentials it will first come from that source before becoming a financial burden to our government and society.

    This practice is not to earn a sainthood merit badge but to follow some rules of decency such as at least trying to give more than we take or in Boy Scout rules, leaving our campsite better than we found it.

    It is okay to prepare for the future, and should it not turn bleak it is okay to leave our unspent money to help someone else who has more than their share of bad luck with health or maintenance, but not gambling.

  5. I’d like to see some proof that crime jumps 10 percent.

    I’ve lived around casinos and never felt unsafe or felt like I lived in a high crime area.

    If gambling drove criminal activity, then Las Vegas would be a largely nonfunctional city.

    I’m not going to take the time right now to look it up, but I’m willing to bet that Vegas’s crime rate isn’t out of step with other cities of similar size. It’s more transient population might lead to a little more crime, but I think you would have a hard time proving any extra crime was tied to gambling.

    I’ve been around and known many gamblers — they’re a pretty passive group. I doubt they have the energy to go rob and steal.

    I also question the bankruptcy state as a bit outlandish and whether there is empirical evidence tying it to gambling. There are a lot of factors that could come into play, including local and national economics. It’s also a lot harder for consumers to file for bankruptcy than it was five years ago, so how current is that stat?

    As for the increase in gambling addicts, if true: Personal choice. It’s not the state’s business to regulate away personal responsibility (wasn’t our president just talking about the need for greater personal responsibility?).

    Got any stats on the improved employment picture, on the increase in charitable giving to the local community?

    • Dan Kennedy

      Howard: Here’s a bunch of stuff from Kindt. Since I’m not trying to knock him down, I’m not going to take the time to go through his materials. Perhaps you’d like to try to debunk him.

      As for personal choice, I’ll ask you the same question I asked Bob: Is there a place where you draw the line? Or do you take the position that anything goes — crystal meth, prostitution, whatever? And if you do draw the line at some things but not others, what do you use as your guide?

  6. In answer to your question Dan, I should have said “gambling should REMAIN legal..”. Are you now comparing the lottery with sellers of meth? Prostitution IS legal in certain places within this country.. and alot less people get diseases than where it’s not. I have no interest in meth or prostitution. Comparing them with each other, never mind with gambling – is just silly. Gambling is ALREADY widespread in this state. 23% of every dollar the lottery sells is given to the cities & towns – $935,000,000.00 in 2007. Personally, i’d start with cigarettes and liquor before I went after gaming.

  7. p.s. If you dont like gambling, don’t. I’ll like you just as much as I do now. But before you start putting the business down, you might be better of starting with calls to your local rep explaining that you want them to refuse that 1 billion dollars in revenue because you’ve found another way to pay the teachers and the policeman. I dont like to see people get hurt regardless of the vice.. but something tells me that if the state weren’t trying to milk the gambling cow even more – we would not have heard a peep of your sudden moral outrage.?

  8. OHHHHHHHHHHHHH Dan, it’s just CASINO gambling you have a problem with? I must have totally misunderstood. So it’s not the CAT of gambing you dont like, it;s the structures. Now I get it.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Bob: You’re bringing up old, long-debunked arguments, so I’m not going to waste a lot of time. But if casino gambling is no different from Megabucks (which I play, by the way), then I guess smoking crack is no different from drinking an occasional beer. I mean, that line of argumentation is really pathetic.

      As for the lost revenue … I can think of lots of ways to make money. We could bring back capital punishment and sell tickets, for instance. In other words, just because you come up with a harmful idea to raise revenue, that does not obligate me to find an alternative.

  9. Newshound

    What is right or wrong, good or bad is not necessarily relevant to legal or illegal.

    We need 100% of every dollar the lottery sells going to cities and towns. Perhaps there wouldn’t be as many dollars donated if that were the case but the money spent on the lottery would be staying here to support families, individuals, health care, children and education.

    Investments in children, education, healthy communities and its citizens is a measurement of wealth.

    The cost of running the lottery is money poorly spent and certainly fails to perpetuate a wealthy society.

    There are real and diverse problems to be solved in keeping our universities, our cities and towns, our hospitals and much more solvent and wasting money on supporting the cost of overhead of gambling is a distraction, not a contribution to getting ahead.

  10. Sorry Dan, I wasn’t trying to waste your time. Just trying to convey my opinions on the matter. And you must have missed my point, because I was saying that building the casinos just for us to earn revenue was the wrong reason to do it. News seems to say it’s ok to gamble if it’s illegal. Your telling me it’s ok for you to gambling they you want to, but I shouldn’t have the right to gamble the way I choose to. Pathetic arguments? What your saying is similar to “I don’t drink alot because I only drink beer.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Your telling me it’s ok for you to gambling they you want to, but I shouldn’t have the right to gamble the way I choose to.

      Exactly, Bob. Most of us realize that living in a civilized society is all about drawing lines and making distinctions. If society has decided that low-impact gambling is OK but high-impact gambling isn’t, that doesn’t make us hypocritical, irrational or stupid.

  11. Wow, what a copout comeback that is. “most of us” – as in you but not me? “society has decided” – I haven’t seen that study yet. Who says I bet any more than you? You spend a $1 two times a week 52 time a year and your’ve spent $104 gambling. I go to a casino once a year and spend a hundred – then you gamble more than me. Every restaurant and bar in the state has a keno screen and scratch tickets.. those aren’t “casinos”? Does the $700 per capita figure qualify under “your” standards as “low-impact”?
    I am as civilized as you even if I see this issue differently than you. And I didn’t insinuate that you were irrational of stupid. But it’s a moot point, when you answered “exactly” to my question you proved that you only have tolerance for one perspective in this discussion, your own. YOU actually think that YOU have the right to set YOUR limits AND mine? Sorry bub! You dont.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Bob: “Society has decided” through our elected representatives, who have approved some forms of gambling but not others. Don’t need a study to figure that out. I didn’t call you uncivilized. I merely pointed out that civilized societies make distinctions. I’m not sure what you mean by “tolerance.” I tolerate all points of view, but I know damn well I’m right and you’re wrong. And you know damn well you’re right and I’m wrong.

  12. Bob Gardner

    Not to pick a side, but what the hell is “low impact gambling.”?

  13. As i’ve indicated, I dont think they should build casinos just for the purpose of gaining revenue. I think they should “allow” it because we already have substantial legal gaming in Massachusetts, and much of the rest of the country allows their citizens to enjoy casinos. Massachusetts allows their citizens to enjoy casino gambling, just not in Massachusetts, just not net. Under the theory of your argument in the above post, If and when “our elected representatives” approve of some form of enhanced gaming, which they likely will, albeit for the wrong reasons as I previously mentioned, then you will no longer have an issue with it. I agree Dan, you have the “right” to your position on the matter, as do I mine. I would not be so closed minded as to suggest that your “feelings” on the matter are any less valid than my own. Just different.

  14. Newshound

    Our economy is struggling for many families to maintain a descent home, buy their cars, pay their bills, pay college tuition and pay their fair share towards the construction cost and maintenance of schools, universities and hospitals, for example.

    If the neighbors are playing poker in someone’s living room with token amounts of money and the winner takes $10 home it is staying in the neighborhood. The overall economic burden is zero.

    But if the money to build a new school or support health care is going to come from taxes on casino gambling, and a casino complex is maintained to supply a residual for public support, it is an extraordinary economic negative to achieve a goal.

    It is a matter of priorities. We learn all the time that we are stressed as a society to properly support the cost of health care, maintain homes, education in our communities etc., and based on that alone it appears our economy can not afford or justify the cost of overhead with commercial or government operated gambling.

    A responsible society puts basic necessities and help to the properly qualified needy ahead of the fun of gambling.

    Immaturity, self-centeredness, may not see it that way and choose the fun of gambling. The effect if it were to prevail, is a meltdown of our civilization. This is especially the case with so much costly innovation and opportunity available for health care.

  15. Nial Liszt

    Dan– What is it, then, that “society has decided” when the precise will of the electorate is known through referendums, only to overturned by these elected representatives? I wouldn’t ascribe such lofty function to our legislature. It was more likely a matter of some not wanting to piss off a Speaker raking in contributions from out of state gaming interests looking to stifle competition. The votes have always been there, as we shall shall see.

    Also, casino-type games are legal in Mass. if held by a non-profit organization– “Las Vegas Nights”. So it is a matter of degree, not type, of gambling that is legal.

  16. A moral society cannot be built on immoral foundations. Gambling is a means of control for the legislatures in this country by perpetuating their ability to receive political payoffs in order to remain in office. It is always the innocent, uneducated man or woman who pays the price for their sins. You can’t get something for nothing without it causing major problems for the poor. There are no free rides, only those who want you to think there is.
    In Christ,
    Danny B. Joyner
    JOHN 3:16

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