More gambling is not good for state coffersPublished 9:25am Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Column: Justin Krych, Guest Column
The annual gambling expansion debate in Minnesota rears its ugly head once again. Proponents choose to portray gambling as a harmless personal entertainment choice without mentioning the consequences to our society and the taxpayers of our state. Instead of focusing on a stronger tax base from a healthier economy, which produces good-paying jobs, legislators of both parties wish to rely on gambling to avoid the political stigma of raising taxes and lowering the size and scope of government. Subverting the role of being a gambling regulator in favor of promoting this negative behavior, exists as another failed way to sweep our problems under the rug.
Gambling revenue costs all levels of government and Minnesota communities dearly. Estimates substantiated by numerous studies show that every dollar “gained” from gambling produces approximately $3 in costs and also reveal that nearly 2 percent of gamblers become firmly addicted while an additional 3 percent become problem gamblers. Communities home to casino-style gambling bear rates of home foreclosure, which measure much higher than communities without casino gambling, and SMR Research estimates that 5 percent of all bankruptcy filings bear a stark gambling component.
Many addicted and problem gamblers turn to criminal activity to support their habit. “In Casinos, Crime and Community Costs,” a 19-year study co-authored by Dr. Earl Grinols of Baylor University and David B. Mustard, the authors concluded that anywhere from 5.5 to 30 percent of crimes in communities with casinos were attributed to gambling. These crimes undoubtedly ravage the families and children of the criminals while victimizing countless targets of the criminals acts themselves.
Amazingly, the gambling expansion focuses on its most dangerous form. Research conducted by the Rhode Island Gambling Treatment Program reveals that video slots exist as the most addictive form of gambling ever devised, citing two out of three gamblers who attribute their addiction to this type of gambling. Dr. Bob Breen found the potential for firm addictions established within one year for those playing video slots as opposed to a potential three- or four-year addiction timeline for those choosing another method.
Gambling addiction affects not only players but lawmakers also. State and local governments become glued to this stream of supposed income finding it impossible to subdue the 800-pound gorilla of gambling after its release. Proponents of the expansion cite different benefactors of the proceeds knowing that connecting gambling revenue to a specific need such as educational or stadium projects, prove useful in bribing the public. Unfortunately, the bribed bear the cost of the long-term losses years after the usefulness of short-term gains.
Yes, gambling as it exists now thrives close to home for most Minnesotans, but increased opportunities to gamble only stand to increase the number of addicted gamblers and the consequences of their lifestyle. More machines will seek to lure many new players to add to the ranks of those whose lives turn upside down from the enticements sponsored by the very politicians who supposedly serve the public interest.
Advocates of personal freedom say that gamblers hold a right to do what they want with their money and bear the consequences of their potential demise. Sadly, the vast majority of gambling revenue is looted from the elderly and the poor, not from those of the upper class. As long as we rely on law enforcement to clean up the mess, as long as gamblers can file bankruptcy and as long as welfare, unemployment, heating and food-assistance programs exist that gamblers can turn to, wagering the financial health of a future Minnesota on gambling becomes a bet with no winner.
Justin Krych is co-chairman for Citizens Against Gambling Expansion.