Testimony in Opposition to the Expansion of Legalized Gambling

TESTIMONY IN OPPOSITION TO THE EXPANSION OF LEGALIZED GAMBLING

Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies
May 4, 2011

Massachusetts Family Institute is a 20-year-old research and public policy institute dedicated to strengthening families in the Commonwealth. As such, we are extremely concerned about the profound impact that expanded predatory gambling would have on the stability of families. There are better ways to fix the state’s economic issues.

If the various states are indeed laboratories for public and social policy, then the states that have experimented with Class 3 gambling to improve their economies have proven that the gambling experiment is a failure. All states that have legalized Class 3 gambling have higher tax rates and poorer economies than Massachusetts. A truly objective study of the negative impacts of Class 3 gambling on Massachusetts has never been done. How can we seriously consider something that would so alter the character of our state without proof that it will do no harm?

The debate of whether slot machines should go to race tracks or casinos is the wrong debate. The real issue is whether government is fundamentally betraying the trust of its citizens by preying on the weak among them with the modern electronic slot machine. Experts in human behavior and neuroscience have clearly determined that these sophisticated computerized machines are specifically designed to deceive the consumer.

According to MIT Professor Dr. Natasha Schull, the complex algorithms in modern slot machines are a high tech version of “weighting the deck” or “loading the dice.” They are designed to deceive people into thinking they almost won, and that if they just keep going, winning is inevitable. The speed of the machines and everything else about them puts people into a hypnotic-like trance where judgment is suspended, just like the influence of cocaine, and even more so if they are being fed free alcohol. If there is any such thing as a cheating and swindling device, the modern slot machine is it.  What does that say about the slot machine industry itself, which creates and markets these cheating and swindling devices, and then bribes and cajoles unsuspecting people to use them?

Legalizing Class 3 gambling would affect virtually every family in the Commonwealth by doubling the number of problem gamblers. It would send the message to children that going for broke is better than working, planning or saving for the future.

Massachusetts currently has over 300,000 problem gamblers. If casinos are approved by the Legislature, we could expect to reap a harvest of 600,000 problem gamblers, each of whom is estimated to affect 7 other people. Two-thirds of Massachusetts residents would suffer in some way.

  • 80% of gambling revenues come from people with less than $50,000 annual income.[1] Over half have yearly incomes of $20,000 or less.[2] Gambling is nothing less than a regressive tax on the poor.
  • 40% of white collar embezzlement crimes are gambling related. Many people are being arrested for such crimes who have never been involved with police before.
  • Gambling significantly contributes to home foreclosures, bankruptcies[3],[4] drug and alcohol abuse, depression, family distress, domestic violence and child abuse, desertion, divorce[5] and suicide.[6]
  • Lest there be any doubt about the “benefits” of Class 3 gambling, comprehensive studies by the University of Illinois reveal that for every dollar government receives in gambling revenues, it must pay out up to $5.60 to deal with the devastation of families, the increase in crime, and the bureaucracies needed to cope with gambling’s ills.[7]
  • The gambling industry is notable for the corruption it brings to government at all levels.

Please reject any attempt to expand government’s complicity in the deception and electronic swindling of its people.

Kris Mineau

President


[1] Arizona Office of Problem Gambling, New Client Profile Data, www.problemgambling.az.gov/profiledate3.htm

[2] Pat Doyle, “Compulsive Gambling Hitting Poor Hardest, New State Study Says,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 25, 1997, p. 1B

[3] Calculations based on data provided by the American Bankruptcy Institute

[4] John McCormick, “Many Iowans Going for Broke,” Des Moines Register, June 15, 1997, p. 1. Note: For the years 1991-1996)

[5] NGISC Final Report, p. 7-26.

[6] Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr., “The House Never Loses and Maryland Cannot Win: Why Casino Gaming is a Bad Idea,” Report on the Impact of Casino Gaming on Crime, October 16, 1995, p.7

[7] Earl L. Grinols, “Cutting the Cards and Craps: Right thinking about Gambling Economics,” Prometheus Books, 2003, p. 14.

 

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