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THE SOCIAL IMPACT OF GAMBLING

Big Brother thinks you're either a child or a fool...Here are the facts

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by J. R. Miller

In a special survey conducted by the Gallup organization for Psychology Today magazine it was found that nearly 1 in 4 American men and 1 in 8 women can be expected to gamble in some way on the next Super Bowl. Furthermore, according to the report by the federal Commission on the Review of the National Policy Toward Gambling, two-thirds of all Americans have gambled, and some 80 percent of us approve of legal gambling as a means of collecting taxes.

A study by clinical psychologist Julian Tabor and psychology technician James Wright was conducted while they were assigned to the compulsive gamblers' unit of Veterans' Medical Center, Brecksville, Ohio. From their research, Tabor estimates that as much as $250 billion per year is being bet on sports alone, and that the total being wagered on all types of illegal betting may be twice that much. Wright claims the amount being bet tends to be grossly underestimated by the general public. (Most such estimates fall between $50 billion and $150 billion per year, - more than the automobile industry, music industry and movie industry combined.)

Nevertheless, our right to gamble has been purposefully and systematically denied by law. Proponents of anti-gambling laws are quick to cite the so-called terrible consequences of compulsive gambling. They cite horror stories of people afflicted with an uncontrollable compulsion to gamble. ("Gambleholics.") They tell about people who neglect their families and generally ruin their lives, much like drug addicts or alcoholics.

...But has gambling actually been shown to be a sickness? Igor Kusyszyn, a psychologist at York University in Canada, investigated the results of five different psychological studies that compared people who gamble with people who did not. All five of the studies came to the same conclusion: There are no significant differences.

Kusyszyn was not satisfied and decided to do his own research. Teamed with another psychologist, Roxanne Rutter, he focused especially on heavy gamblers. Using the Personality Research Form and the Personality Inventory developed by Douglas Jackson, they compared men who gambled an average of 19 hours per week with non-gamblers and with light gamblers.

Kusyszyn and Rutter also concluded that heavy gamblers are as psychologically sound as non-gamblers. Moreover, their findings indicate that light gambling does not lead to heavy gambling. Light gamblers who had been gambling as long as 15 years had not become heavy gamblers. This particular conclusion agrees with a finding by Weinstein and Deitch that lottery players almost never put relatively large amounts of money into the lottery.

But how can one explain those people who truly cannot control their gambling? What about people who end up in groups such as Gamblers Anonymous? Are these people victims of a genuine medical affliction, or not?

Probably so, - but not at all for the reasons many people would have us believe. There is mounting evidence that certain people have what amounts to addiction-prone personalities. These people reach adulthood predisposed to becoming addicted to whatever happens to be handy. That could be gambling, of course, but it could also be food, alcohol, board games, or watching television...You name it. Many psychologists will agree, for example, that more people are addicted to credit cards than will ever be addicted to gambling...And look around you at how many people are addicted to food.

In short, there are no legitimate objective studies supporting the theory that gamblers - even those considered to be very heavy gamblers - are, as a group, morally or psychologically inferior to non-gamblers.

But why, then, are so many professional religionists upset by the prospect of legalized gambling? Why do the self-appointed moralists among us refuse to accept the results of study after study? No, there is no condemnation of gambling anywhere in the Bible, neither in the Old Testament nor in the New Testament. If your own religious guru claims otherwise, ask him to cite to you the passage. He cannot.

      ...There are no legitimate objective studies supporting the theory that gamblers - even those considered to be very heavy gamblers - are, as a group, morally or psychologically inferior to non-gamblers.


Let me repeat that: No one can produce a single verse of scripture that condemns gambling. In fact, one wonders if citing Biblical opposition to gambling might be tantamount to adding to the Bible, which is emphatically condemned in Revelations 22:18.

In Psychology Today magazine, Jerome H. Skolnick puts forth this interesting scenario concerning professional religionists and their opposition to gambling: Gambling, much like the practice of religion, might provide a psychological solace for some people from the certainty of dying. He points out that both gambling and religion can give many people a sense of being in control of their own destiny. If such is the case, it is likely that for certain people gambling may well be - or come to be - a preferable alternative to attending church. (Indeed, it has been shown that less than 30 percent of those people living in Las Vegas attend church even one time per year.)

According to Skolnick, gambling may be regarded by professional religionists as a threat to their income. Resisting its legalization might be, either consciously or subconsciously, a fight for their financial well-being.

There is little doubt that both gambling and the practice of religion are basic human rights, inseparable from our right to privacy. According to the Bill of Rights neither can logically be a candidate for legislative abolishment. However, there is also no doubt that both must be closely supervised to control fraud and misrepresentation. Customers of both casinos and churches can easily be, and regularly are, cheated. It is, after all, inherent in both businesses that they attract con artists and seedy characters out for a fast buck. Both businesses invite all manner of financial skullduggery, including tax fraud and outright dishonest sales practices. For example, the odds against winning a gambling game should be made clear to the customer, of course, and those odds should allow a reasonable profit for the game's operator - but what about the odds against being healed of a terminal disease by a witch doctor putting his hand on your forehead? What about the odds of living forever in a mansion in the sky, as promised by a television guru in a $2,000 suit and a $20 wig? Shouldn't both businesses be kept clean by government oversight?

After the "gambleholic" argument, anti-gambling forces usually cite an increase in violent crime. That argument has also been wholly disproven by objective studies. According to the findings of the FBI Uniform Crime Report (USA TODAY, April 24, 1989), Las Vegas has a lower incidence of violent crimes per capita than Memphis, Chattanooga or Nashville, Tennessee, and those three cities have the strictest anti-gambling laws in the "Free" World.

Of those cities with more than 100,000 population, Las Vegas ranks 123rd in violent crimes per capita, even though its disproportionate number of tourists should certainly serve to hurt that standing.

The key to understanding who took away your right to play bingo, or to bet on your favorite team, is to understand who profits by denying you that right. If you owned a bowling alley, for example, wouldn't it be nice if the only legal entertainment in town was to bowl? Who stands to lose if you spend money on gambling? It's easy to assume that the first money lost might be the money set aside for a day at Disneyland, or to go bowling, or to attend a movie...Or as a tithe.

Of course, people will gamble whether or not gambling is against the law. But gambling, itself, cannot be blamed for creating criminals. Put unreasonable restrictions on the sale of bread, and you will create a black market in the sale of bread. Nevertheless, it is self-evident that bread would not be to blame for creating lawbreakers.

Some years back, in Wisconsin, it was actually illegal to sell margarine. Wisconsin is a dairy state, and margarine was regarded as a threat to their economy. Consequently, of course, a thriving black market developed in the sale of margarine. One can only guess how many people went to prison for the sale or possession of Parkay, but there is no doubt that thousands of people regularly and with clear conscience broke the law. The law was an outrage, of course, for the same reasons laws against gambling are an outrage. Margarine was outlawed to protect the rich and powerful few, just as gambling is outlawed to protect the rich and powerful few. To blame gambling for creating criminals makes as little sense as blaming margarine for creating criminals.

Quite aside from the human rights' aspect of these morally untenable laws, laws against gambling, margarine, or driving more than 55 miles per hour on an Interstate highway breed contempt for all law, and for all police and politicians. They don't make sense and cannot stand the light of reason.  The vast majority of Americans gamble, eat margarine, and break the 55-miles-per-hour speed limit regularly and with clear conscience.

But most importantly, such mean-spirited, anti-American laws violate both the intent and the spirit of our United States Constitution. The Supreme Court has side-stepped the gambling issue for years by refusing to hear cases wherein gambling is presented within the context of our right to privacy. Did you know the United States is the only non-Muslim country in the world where gambling is illegal? Did you know that during the darkest days of Stalin's Russia, Moscow and other Russian cities had casinos? So much for "The Land of the Free." The Supreme Court should be petitioned to address these violations of human rights as soon as possible. When and if they do, they can only come to one conclusion: Your right to gamble is intrinsically protected by the Constitution.

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* "...As Chairman of the Internet Gaming Awards, I want to congratulate you and your website on being honored as a 2000 All Pro Gaming Site. Our website judging committee has selected only the very best Gaming sites to receive this coveted award. Every year, we review the top sites in Gaming and honor the very best based on content excellence." 
- David Smith - Internet Gaming Awards Chairman

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