EXAMINING GAMBLING AND GAMING
(Austin) - With only a few weeks left in the 79th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature, most of the focus will be on the passage of the biennial budget and the comprehensive public school finance reform package. Though no measures have yet been approved, there are those who still seek an expansion of gambling in Texas as a way to increase the amount of revenue available to the state.
I personally do not believe the state should do this. In my opinion, the cost is too high and the reward too unstable to justify its existence, and I remain steadfast in my opposition to any expansion of gambling or gaming in Texas.
In 1999, the National Gambling Impact Study Commission (NGISC) Final Report, provided the first comprehensive assessment of gambling's effects on the United States in 23 years. The NGISC raised many concerns about the negative social and economic impacts of gambling. A copy of the entire report may be obtained through the Internet at http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/ngisc/index.html.
One area of concern is gambling addiction. The NGISC report clearly states that gambling addiction is increasing, and will continue to do so as access to gambling expands. The following are excerpts from the report:
"NORC (The National Opinion Research Center) examined the nearby presence of gambling facilities as a contributing factor in the incidence of problem and pathological gambling in the general population. In examining combined data from its telephone and patron surveys, NORC found that the presence of a gambling facility within 50 miles roughly doubles the prevalence of problem and pathological gamblers.... "Seven of the nine communities that NORC investigated reported that the number of problem and pathological gamblers increased after the introduction of nearby casino gambling."
"[According to the National Research Council] pathological gamblers 'engage in destructive behaviors: they commit crimes, they run up large debts, they damage relationships with family and friends, and they kill themselves. With the increased availability of gambling and new gambling technologies, pathological gambling has the potential to become even more widespread.'"
"Problem or pathological gambling can affect the life of the gambler and others in varied and profound ways. The NRC study stated that 'although the research in this area is sparse, it suggests that the magnitude and extent of personal consequences on the pathological gambler and his or her family may be severe.' That report notes that many families of pathological gamblers suffer from a variety of financial, physical, and emotional problems, including divorce, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, and a range of problems stemming from the severe financial hardship that commonly results from problem and pathological gambling. Children of compulsive gamblers are more likely to engage in delinquent behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and using drugs, and have an increased risk of developing problem or pathological gambling themselves.
"The National Research Council also noted the existence of a number of costly financial problems related to problem or pathological gambling, including crime, loss of employment, and bankruptcy. According to NRC, 'As access to money becomes more limited, gamblers often resort to crime in order to pay debts, appease bookies, maintain appearances, and garner more money to gamble.' NRC also states that 'Another cost to pathological gamblers is loss of employment. Roughly one-fourth to one-third of gamblers in treatment in Gamblers Anonymous report the loss of their jobs due to gambling.'
The problem with the pathological gambler, or the gambling addict, is the direct societal costs that must be paid for by the taxpayer.
"In addition to the costs of problem and pathological gambling borne by the individual and his or her family, there are broader costs to society. NORC estimated that the annual average costs of job loss, unemployment benefits, welfare benefits, poor physical and mental health, and problem or pathological gambling treatment is approximately $1,200 per pathological gambler per year and approximately $715 per problem gambler per year. NORC further estimated that lifetime costs (bankruptcy, arrests, imprisonment, legal fees for divorce, and so forth) at $10,550 per pathological gambler, and $5,130 per problem gambler. With these figures, NORC calculated that the aggregate annual costs of problem and pathological gambling caused by the factors cited above were approximately $5 billion per year, in addition to $40 billion in estimated lifetime costs.
"NORC admittedly 'focuse[d] on a small number of tangible consequences' and did not attempt to estimate the financial costs of any gambling-related incidences of theft, embezzlement, suicide, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, and the non-legal costs of divorce. As a result, its figures must be taken as minimums."
This is the first in a series on gambling and gaming in Texas. To contact Sen. Deuell about the legislative process, contact the Capitol Office at (512) 463-0556 or mail to Sen. Bob Deuell, Texas Senate, P.O. Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711. The website for the Texas Senate is www.Senate.state.tx.us. The e-mail address for Sen. Deuell is: email@example.com.