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Gambling is not the answer to curbing state budget woes

Supporters of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s casino expansion amendment tend to ignore the serious/deadly problem of gambling addiction. They write it off as a minor, incidental hazard, affecting only a few people and outweighed by benefits from the casino.

But we need to realize addiction and problem gambling are essential to a casino’s profits. Gambling addicts aren’t just minor collateral damage. They are a necessary source of casino income. Casinos need addicts. Statistical studies from around the world bear out that 30 to 70 percent of casino profits come from gambling addicts.

The state and owners of casinos have shown little interest in prevention or treatment of gambling addiction. Indeed, could they afford to do more? If they were effective at prevention, they might drastically cut into their own profits. In fact, the proximity of a casino increases the likelihood of addiction or problem gambling among those in the surrounding area.

As Natasha Schull points out in “Addiction by Design” (Princeton University Press 2013), today’s slot machines are designed with increasing effectiveness to keep players “on device,” “gambling to extinction” until they’ve run out of money and exhausted their financial resources.

Those most vulnerable to gambling addiction are the elderly, the young, the poor. Those we should seek to protect are the very ones we are ready to exploit. But how can the state effectively regulate an industry that is one of its major sources of revenue? Is this the way we want to fund our state budget? I urge you to vote no to Proposal 1 on election day.

Merle Showers

Buffalo