Expanding gambling won't merely 'recapture' Massachusetts gamblers - it will create more gamblers, and cause much more gambling addiction here.
The availability of gambling results in more gambling addiction, and in fact, an explosion in the number of problem and pathological gamblers in the United States have closely paralleled the phenomenal explosion of legal gambling opportunities in the 1990s.
In addition to this overview, please refer to the following sections:
The casino industry has addiction down to a science
The casino industry has whole teams
of workers who study problem gamblers and the science of addiction to learn how exactly they
can best market their products to the people most likely to become addicted.2
Even casino owner and developer Steve Wynn admitted in a 60 Minutes interview, "The only way to win in a casino is to own one."
Casinos make up to 90% of their profits from 10% of the players3
Slot machines take
credit cards, not coins, and are designed so players can make hundreds of bets per minute -
giving players a buzz similar to cocaine.4
Quite simply, if people were not addicted to their
product, casinos would not be profitable.
The goal of slot machines is to get gamblers to play longer, faster, more intensively
and to "play to extinction."
Everything, from the sounds the machines make to the timing
and frequency of payoffs, are all carefully designed to maximize the amount of time people sit at
a machine, encouraging players to spend until they have nothing left.5
Predatory slots are not like interactive, social gambling games like bingo, Friday night
poker games, or office sports pools. The state sponsors more than enough regressive
gambling with the Lottery
Slots take the word "predatory" to a new level: at least the
lottery can't be purchased with credit cards; can't put liens on someone's home; does not serve
alcohol 24/7; and does not actively seek out and market to scratch ticket addicts.
Casinos aggressively market to problem gamblers
They collect extensive information
about their most frequent customers, and use statistical models to predict when targeted
customers will gamble and how much they will spend - and base their marketing accordingly.6
In Illinois, a casino was fined $800,000 for marketing to problem gamblers who had voluntarily
banned themselves from entering a casino by placing themselves on a self-exclusion list.7
Slot machines are highly addictive, much more addictive than any other form of
Today's predatory slots are meticulously designed computers, generating precise
profits, deliberately creating a false sense of near wins and regular small payoffs that create an
illusion of sporting chance.
It's unrealistic to believe that warnings or other educational features on a slot machine will prevent addiction
Slot machine addiction is a psychological disorder that needs to be treated by professionals, not a machine. Some safety features - such as forced time limits - might have the opposite effect by prompting compulsive gamblers to gamble more or faster knowing they will shortly be cut off from the object of their obsession.8
Human beings exhibit both adaptive and maladaptive behaviors. Addictive behaviors are persistent, hard to change, maladaptive behaviors. All addictive behaviors can be located along a continuum from mild, moderate to severe.
Both adaptive and maladaptive behaviors emerge from the interaction of 3 influences; what you're born with (biology/genetics), what you're born into (social environment) and how you adapt (psychology).
Cognitive-behavioral psychological theory states that addictive behaviors are learned and reinforced through the constant interaction of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Irrational short term, dogmatic, exaggerated, and denigrating thinking lead to self defeating habits (addictive behaviors). People with addictive behaviors have created a distorted reality. To change, they must change to more rational long term, flexible, realistic and rational ways of thinking.
Understanding gambling addiction
Most people who gamble are adaptive and do not have gambling problems. However, this group does not lose much. They account for only about 20% of gambling revenues.
Problem gamblers account for about 80% of money lost. A disproportionate number of returning veterans, the poor, low income groups, the less educated, minorities, the working class, the formerly incarcerated, and those with a wide range of emotional and addictive behaviors have gambling problems. They are especially vulnerable to the casino culture and its exaggerated illusion of immediate financial success.
The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV-1994) defines gambling addiction as recurring maladaptive gambling behaviors characterized by distorted thinking.
Gambling addiction is highly correlated with alcohol problems. If you have a gambling problem, and drink, it will be very difficult to change your self defeating gambling thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
Nevada has the highest per capita alcohol consumption rate, much of it given away. Most money lost in casinos is not carried in but lost after accessing additional money from ATM machines and credit cards. The MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas has more ATM machines than any other building in the world. Lottery revenues in Massachusetts would decrease significantly if Keno machines were removed from drinking establishments. The gambling industry understands full well that increased drinking leads to increased gambling profits.
Understanding the cost of expanding gambling
Proponents of expanding legalized gambling maximize benefits and minimize costs. They use projections suggesting that gambling addiction is an unfortunate, insignificant but manageable problem. That is not true. According to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission (NGISC-1999) about one third of active gamblers have some level of mild, moderate to severe problem;
- Mild (at risk gamblers)-about 18% of active gamblers
- Moderate (problem gamblers)-about 9% of active gamblers
- Severe (pathological gamblers)-about 4% of active gamblers
About 50% of people with gambling problems are estimated to also have drinking problems. Gambling addiction effects, and is effected by, many other costly behaviors including smoking, suicide, depression, domestic violence, child neglect, bankruptcy, traumatic stress and crime. Alcohol or drug use is involved in 60% to 80% of arrests and incarcerations. About 30% to 40% of the incarcerated are estimated to have gambling problems. About 2 out of 3 of the formerly incarcerated are rearrested within 3 years, according to a 15 state, 2002 US Justice Department study. For those who stay sober, recidivism rates drop to about 1 out of 3.
Self referrals for gambling problems are much lower (3%) when compared to people who self refer for alcohol (15%) and drug (25%) problems. It is reasonable to assume gambling addiction is underreported. Each pathological gambler cost society as much as $50,000 a year. Independent studies provide clear evidence (Grinols, Gambling in America-Costs and Benefits-2004) that the costs of gambling easily outweigh benefits by $3 to $1.
Addictive behaviors are learned and reinforced within an environment. The NGISC found the number of pathological gamblers double within a 50 mile radius of new casinos. Expanding legalized gambling will significantly increase the number of pathological and problem gamblers and confound efforts to abstain.
Public officials promoting the expansion of legalized gambling create their own false reality. To change their thinking, they need to do an honest cost-benefit analysis, independent from the assertions of the gambling industry. This has not been done.
Gambling and Suicide
"Suicide attempts are higher among pathological gamblers than for any of the addictions."
--Dr. Rachel A. Volberg
For millions of Americans, gambling addiction has become a pathway to pain and misery; for some it leads to death. Gambling-related suicides have become an increasingly common phenomenon, as legalized gambling has spread across America. The extent of this phenomenon remains largely unrecognized, however, due to a variety of reasons, ranging from a desire by surviving family members to protect privacy to attempts by suicide victims to make their deaths appear accidental for insurance purposes. Even so, the evidence beginning to come forth paints a grim picture of the depth of despondency which often accompanies a gambling addiction.
In a 1997 study, a University of California-San Diego sociologist found that "visitors to and residents of gaming communities experience significantly elevated suicide levels." According to Dr. David Phillips, Las Vegas "displays the highest levels of suicide in the nation, both for residents of Las Vegas and for visitors to that setting." In Atlantic City, N.J., Phillips found that "abnormally high suicide levels for visitors and residents appeared only after gambling casinos were opened."
In 1999, more than 429 Nevada residents committed suicide according to the Donrey Washington Bureau. Nevada has consistently held the highest suicide rate for more than 10 years.
February 2003 news reports said support for a proposed downtown casino expansion in Alberta, Canada is in trouble after statistics revealed an alarming link between gambling and suicides. Medical examiners suspect that at least one out of every 10 suicides is gambling-related.
In Gulfport, Mississippi, suicides increased by 213 percent (from 24 to 75) in the first two years after casinos arrived. In neighboring Biloxi, suicide attempts jumped by 1,000 percent (from 6 to 66) in the first year alone.
A survey of nearly 200 Gamblers Anonymous members in Illinois found that 66 percent had contemplated suicide, 79 percent had wanted to die, 45 percent had a definite plan to kill themselves, and 16 percent had actually attempted suicide.
The National Council on Problem Gambling, citing various studies, reports that one in five pathological gamblers attempts suicide - a rate higher than for any other addictive disorder.
How the Availability of Gambling Results in More Gambling Addiction
The number of Gamblers Anonymous chapters in the United States has nearly doubled in the last eight years as gambling has expanded across the country
Georgia now has more than 1,200 chapters meeting regularly across the country.
Gambling surveys in the state of Iowa showed a marked increase in the number of problem and pathological gamblers after the introduction of casinos. In 1989, only 1.7 percent of Iowa adults showed indications of having a serious gambling problem; by 1995, the percentage had more than tripled to 5.4 percent.
Dr. Rob Hunter, founder and director of the Charter Hospital Gambling Treatment Center in Las Vegas and a nationally recognized expert on gambling addiction, estimates that 15 percent of casino workers have a compulsive gambling problem.
In New York, the percentage of individuals who report having had a gambling problem increased from 4.2 percent in 1986 to 7.3 percent a decade later, as gambling opportunities greatly expanded.
In Oregon, the number of Gamblers Anonymous chapters increased from three to more than 30 within five years of the introduction of video poker machines. Gambling addiction experts contend video poker is among the most addictive forms of gambling.
Two gambling behavior surveys conducted in Minnesota showed a substantial increase in the number of compulsive gamblers coincidental with the expansion of gambling in that state. The lottery was introduced in Minnesota in 1990, while casino gambling was just gaining a toehold that year. By 1994, however, there were 17 casinos in operation in Minnesota with estimated gross annual sales of between $3 billion to $4 billion. The percentage of Minnesota adults who demonstrated a serious gambling problem in the past year climbed from 2.5 percent of the population in 1990 to 4.4 percent in 1994.
Schull, Natasha. Oral Testimony before Committee on Economic Development,
March 18, 2008.
Interview with 60 Minutes, July 26, 2009. (video)
Binkley, Christina. Winner Takes All. 2008. page 184.
Breiter, Dr. Hans. Director, Massachusetts General Hospital Motivational and Emotional Neuroscience Center. Testimony before
Massachusetts Senate Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. June 2009.
Schull, Natasha Dow. "Written Version of Testimony Delivered at the Hearing on Gambling Addiction." October 31, 2007. BostonState House.
Binkley, Christina. Winner Takes All. 2008. Page 184.
Tita, Bob. "Casino fined $800k for marketing to banned gamblers." Chicago Business. May 19, 2008.
Benston, Liz. "Could the game be partly to blame for addiction?" Las Vegas Sun, November 24, 2004