Thursday, Aug 24, 2017
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Rose Russell

Casino gambling brings extensive social problems

TOLEDOANS who love their city and know that it's one of the nation's best kept secrets also know that it's a great family town with some of the amenities of bigger metropolises.

While there's no question that it could be a lot better here, it could also be worse. As a matter of fact, if Issue 3 passes on Tuesday, our fine city and state will get a whole lot worse.

With the claim that the casino gambling industry will bring jobs to Ohio, there's little talk about the types of jobs those would be, whether temporary or permanent, minimum-wage or living-wage.

Don't be fooled. The ordinary Joe or Mary will not be hired to run a craps table. Those operators will probably be transferred from other states. So while those will be jobs, they will not be jobs going to Ohioans.

And do those jobs that casino backers count include prostitution that's bound to come too?

There's no denying that jobs are needed in Ohio in the cities the industry promises to build casinos - Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati - and beyond.

However, at what cost? Do we want temporary relief at the cost of long-term damage that promises to be widespread?

Though it would be wrong to enshrine the casino industry in the Ohio Constitution, most ordinary people probably don't care much about that.

But everyone cares about the social ills that come with gambling once a casino's bright lights become glaring lights, when crime increases and gambling addiction rates jump, when otherwise reliable employees slack off in attendance and performance, and when social service agencies become burdened with broken and ruined individuals and families directly affected by casino gambling.

If supporters of this issue think Ohioans are too smart to get sucked into gambling's grasp, research and experiences in other states say otherwise.

Though much of the following insight into the effects of casino gambling is from the People Against Casino Town Web site, here's what the Boston Globe wrote in September, 2007: " 'Once I got started, I couldn't stop,' said Al, 77, his words tinged with resignation. 'All I thought about was how the hell am I going to get some money to go up there and gamble. We'd stay there playing for 24 hours.'

"Amid the promises of robust tax coffers and thousands of new jobs, Gov. Deval Patrick and his health secretary acknowledged last week that the administration's bid to bring three casinos to the state comes with a price: addiction. They're so certain that some gamblers will be hooked on the slot machines and roulette wheels and blackjack tables that they are vowing to set aside a share of the state's bounty to pay for addiction treatment.

"Those concerns are well founded: Research shows that people living within 50 miles of a casino are twice as likely to fall victim to compulsive gambling as those farther away."

Ohio governor and legislators, take notice.

A story in the Florida Times Union in October, 2007, also noted casino gambling was promoted as "revenue enhancement."

It added that "For every dollar gambling would bring in, research shows three more dollars are spent on increased social costs for criminal justice and social welfare."

In August, 2006, the Siuslaw News in Florence, Ore., stated this: "As predicted by numerous national studies, it took less than two years of casino operation for gambling addiction to raise its ugly head in the small, coastal town of Florence. "

Then that story noted the details of a Gamblers Anonymous meeting.

A California attorney general's report in 2006 put the annual cost of adult pathological gamblers there at $489 million, and the yearly cost of adult problem gamblers at $509 million.

The report stated that "These costs derive from a number of social and personal problems that correlate with problem gambling, including crime, unpaid debt and bankruptcy, mental illness, substance abuse, unemployment, and public assistance."

Research at Rhode Island Hospital and Miriam Hospital, both in Providence, labeled video lottery terminals or VLTs as "the 'crack cocaine' of gambling."

This statement by a gambling addiction counselor in New York was particularly upsetting: "They're taking money from their kids' college funds. I've seen cases of parents breaking into their kids' piggy banks so they can gamble."

Fellow Ohioans, if you don't want these problems, then you know to vote no on Issue 3.

Rose Russell is a Blade associate editor.

Contact rrussell@theblade.com

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