November 9, 2009

Addicted to Gambling

Justin Katz

It would go too far to suggest that my position on casinos is evolving, but one could fairly say that my balance of the civic and the moral is shifting a bit. Maura Casey explains the following in a piece that calls on "the moral leadership of the country" to do something about the proliferation of casinos and the rapid increase in problem gambling (emphasis in original):

Slot machines have long been programmed to show "near misses" and give gamblers the impression that they came this close to winning, the better to encourage them to keep playing. The machines give back enough money in the process to make gamblers feel like winners even when they are losing. But Harrah's developed the technique of intervening when reality began to dawn on gamblers—when they lost so much the experience was becoming negative. The company tracked, in real time, customers' losing streaks and would send "luck ambassadors" to perk them up, give them a token gift—free lunch or some free credits on the machine—to reduce their perception of losing and keep them gambling longer.

In the process, Harrah's discovered that 90 percent of its profits came from 10 percent of its most avid customers, according to Binkley. This is unsurprising. Many reports suggest that addicts produce a disproportionate share of casino profits. A 1998 Nova Scotia study found that 6 percent of regular gamblers produced 96 percent of gambling revenue, and a whopping 54 percent of the revenue came from just 1 percent of problem gamblers—leading researchers to conclude that, at any one time, half the patrons in front of slot machines in Nova Scotia were problem gamblers. A 1999 study estimated that more than 42 percent of all spending at Indian-reservation casinos came from problem gamblers. A study in Australia concluded that problem gamblers were only 4.7 percent of the population yet generated 42 percent of machine revenues.

I still believe that people ought to be able to gamble, if they like, although I believe states and communities should be able to determine the shape of their society, and I oppose large gambling facilities in Rhode Island. On the other hand, I'm persuaded that regulations ought to favor table games over slot machines, and Rhode Island currently forbids the former while promoting the latter, creating an irrational predicament.

Whatever the case, I remain firmly convinced about the immorality and total lack of civic prudence for the government to take in more revenue from gambling than from any other industry within the state. It makes a junkie out of the regulator.

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When I worked at Lincoln Park in security as a retrement job ,I saw stuff that blew my mind.i had never gambled other than in the mini-casino at Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands using my coin currency,which they don't exchange,so you may as well.If you want,the casino will exchange if you're playing there.
Anyhow,I got to Lincoln and saw the same addicted degenerate gamblers day in and day out.I don't know where they got the money,but it was obvious they were saving on clothing and soap.many of them just maxed out their credit cards on cash advances(think about what that cost!)and they sometimes wouldn't leave a machine for any reason.I had people collapse at a machine,get transported to the hospital and return the same night to continue playing.I also had to deal with swine who urinated and defecated on themselves(and the seats)and vomited on the screen.We had one guy who was puking in his shirt so he wouldn't have to miss playing time.How glamorous!!
I could never understand the psychology of it,but I worked narcotics for 9 years and never understood junkies either.Morphine amd dilaudid and similar drugs are Godsends when you're in severe pain,but I couldn't imagine taking them for enjoyment.
Anyway,it sometimes was a shock to see people you knew and find out they had a gambling addiction.
Where I grew up in a blue collar Jewish neighborhood(yes,there were such things)in Brooklyn gambling was a cancer.My father never gambled-thankfully he only liked to drink a little whiskey.
I knew kids whose fathers had to cough up most of their weekly paychecks to the bookies.
In spite of all this,I really don't feel that we need a nanny state.If you want to screw up your life,okay,just don't have your hand out to me as a taxpayer to make it better.I'd prefer it to be spent on those like the mentally challenged people who have no responsibility for their situation.

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 9, 2009 1:50 PM

I am happy Hawaii is one of two states in the nation where gambling and lotteries are illegal.

If people want to gamble they hop a gambling junked to Las Vegas that includes RT airfare, taxes and transfers, hotel room and all meals for around $500.

According to The Tax Foundation in 2007 based on sales per capita the State of Rhode Island is ranked #1 in nation with $1,712.82 spent a year in lottery tickets and slots.

The total US national average spent is $194.54.

Posted by: Ken at November 9, 2009 5:20 PM

OK. Obviously, as the de-facto Anchor Rising Ambassador of Vice, I'm going to say that I support gambling, but not in the way that Rhode Island has implemented it.

Gambling should not be a way to prey on your own people.

Rhode Islanders who want gambling seem to want to 'keep it away from the city' by shuffling it out to some godforsaken suburb. That's crazy. Cities are designed to handle people coming and going in massive numbers, at all hours. Providence Police have dozens of officers downtown -all night- already. Cities have (empty) hotels that can absorb and benefit from casino patrons spending the night.

If we are to have it, we should build a small (300 person?) casino, in downtown Providence, with a $100 minimum and a dress code. Getting in the door should cover a shuttle limo from the airport, the waterfront, and the train station, to the casino and the hotels.

We should advertise the 'no lowlife' casino experience, and use it as a little macroeconomic gravity-well. Let's catch Newport millionaires and Boston-to-Foxwoods trips instead of Joe Sixpack from Cranston.

Unfortunately, what I imagine will actually happen is a blue-collar suburban casino that preys on our own citizens, causes endless amounts of trouble for the nearby residents, replete with mysterious mismanagement that leads to constant shortfalls.

As an aside: Does anyone find it interesting that Justin can handle gambling, but not commercial sex? Gambling and alcohol certainly ruin more lives (and lead to more 'unwanted pregnancies') than prostitution and narcotics... I find it hard to believe that if Jesus Christ were to tour Rhode Island, he would choose to throw the spa workers in jail before the operators of Twin River.

Posted by: mangeek at November 11, 2009 12:53 AM

mangeek-you don't have to wait for the Second Coming-the last crew that ran Lincoln Park before it was Twin River wound up having its two top execs go the Federal slam.
Money-making notion:a "Depends" concession at Twin River.:)

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 11, 2009 9:39 AM
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