We can’t afford more ways to gamble

Gambling | Russ Pulliam

We can’t afford more ways to gamble

The roulette table at the Hollywood Casino in Toledo, Ohio.
Associated Press/Photo by Mark Duncan

Think of legal gambling like snakes in a pit.

Go ahead into the pit to play with the snakes, but you risk getting bit.

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In the case of gambling the snakebite is an addiction that can shred a family’s finances, destroy a marriage, and leave more successful people destitute.

Concerns about the ill effects of gambling have made Indiana legislators hesitant about further expansion of casinos and other gaming outlets during the General Assembly’s current session.

Those ill effects can be seen in real-life tragedies across the country.

Former San Diego Mayor Maureen O’Connor, for example, stole more than $2 million from a charity to feed her gambling habit. She’s wasted much more than that on her addiction over 10 years.

In another case, Cecilia Chang looted St. John’s University’s endowment to feed a gambling habit at casinos. Sadly, she committed suicide and St. John’s officials are unsure how much she stole or exactly how she did it.

Of course, most gamblers don’t fall into problems on that scale. But legal gambling frequently opens the door for smaller versions of these tragedies, and the extent of the damage is hard to measure.

Gambling addicts don’t advertise their problems. Stealth is part of the addiction. They embezzle money quietly and often are not criminals in any other respect, at least in the early stages of the habit.

Researchers have tried to put a price tag on gambling addiction. In trying to measure the costs of problem gambling, Professor Earl Grinols of Baylor University factors in bankruptcies, suicides, and crime, along with the expense of family breakdown, divorce, child abuse, and neglect. Grinols estimates the national cost of gambling addiction at about $62 billion.

Someday gambling will join the ranks of the tobacco industry in disgrace over the ill effects of its products.

For now, we don’t need more ways to play these games.

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