I have been asked to serve on the Board of Directors for a new organization called Stop Predatory Gambling Kentucky. The group will have a launch event on Wednesday, March 6, 11:30 a.m. in the Capitol Rotunda.
We would like to invite supporters, friends, lawmakers, media to the launch event which will include a video clip from 60 Minutes on gambling addiction and several speakers.
You may remember that I was involved with WAGE (Women Against Gambling Expansion) several years ago. Some of the same folks are spear-heading this effort which is a state affiliate of the national organization (www.stoppredatorygambling.org). The focus of this organization is predatory gambling which is the “practice of using gambling to prey on human weakness for profit. For-profit gambling, or commercial gambling, is illegal unless the government makes it legal. Where you have legal gambling the government has given its support and in nearly every instance operates in partnership with gambling interests, whether in the form of state lotteries, commercial casinos or tribal casinos.”
One might ask, “How is government’s predatory gambling program different than social gambling like the office Super Bowl pool or a Friday night poker game with the guys in the neighborhood?” Predatory gambling has these distinctions:
1) The speed of the games.
2) The “buzz” or high people get when they play.
3) The frequency of gambling and the length of time doing it.
4) The amount of money people lose.
5) The business practices used to promote it.
In the midst of continuing efforts to expand gambling, it would be easy for me to say, “Gambling is a stupid tax and if you want to pay it, go ahead.” But I cannot let it go without a fight. I cannot condone a state government that encourages people to gamble their money (READ: waste, throw away, etc.). Expanding gambling is not about offering people more ways to have fun. It is about a predatory industry that wants people to lose money to them and our government is encouraging it in order to get a slice of what people lose.
It can be argued that people waste money on recreation (movies, trips, golf, etc.). Why not let them waste it on gambling if they want to? Because unlike purely recreational pursuits, gambling is addictive. It destroys families. And when children go hungry because of compulsive gambling, we as taxpayers foot the bill and there will not be enough gambling revenue to cover those costs. So why should our government encourage destructive behavior in the first place?
Take the lessons learned about tobacco. When the health industry finally woke up to what it cost to treat all of the medical problems caused by smoking, they got on-board with anti-smoking efforts. Now we have many smoke free buildings and society at large no longer favors smoking. We need to understand the costs of expanded gambling. They are huge and far exceed the revenue generated. And even if the revenue did exceed costs, how can we justify allowing any family to be destroyed by encouraging a behavior that is known to be addictive and destructive?
If a company introduced a new product that did as much harm as gambling, there would be a hue and cry to take it off the shelves. Yet, our government turns a blind eye to the harm of gambling out of sheer greed. Expanding gambling options puts our state government in league with the gambling industry, encouraging people to lose money. Any government that operates on the misfortune and stupidity of people is a sorry government indeed.
I am investing my time and energy into this effort because mission action includes combatting social and moral problems. Gambling causes a ripple effect of problems including crime, destruction of families, increased foreclosures, and the list goes on.
Join Stop Predatory Gambling Kentucky for our launch event at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 6 at the Kentucky State Capitol Rotunda. Please help us spread the word about the launch event and keep this effort in your prayers.