Florida needs credible information about casinos
Once people examine the impact of casinos, they understand this is bad, insidious business enabled by the government. What Floridians need is credible and objective information.
As Tallahassee focuses on how to align gambling policies, the question is: Will Florida lawmakers consider all credible information that comes their way?
If the Legislature’s eyes and ears are open to independent and objective information about casinos, there is no more detailed report than “Why Casinos Matter: Thirty-One Evidence-Based Propositions from the Health and Social Sciences” from the Institute for American Values, a New York City-based think tank. The report, which was written by an independent group of scholars and public policy leaders, points to the expansion of casinos as a contributor to social and income inequality. It is online at http://www.americanvalues.org/pdfs/Why-Casinos-Matter.pdf.
Included in the study is this tough conflict-of-interest statement that will challenge the thinking of lawmakers who have pro-gambling tendencies: “State regulation of casinos creates a conflict of interest, in which the state is charged with protecting the public from the very business practices that generate revenue for the state and which the state is co-sponsoring.”
Consider the case “Why Casinos Matter” makes against slot machines. The study points out that:
A modern slot machine is a sophisticated computer, engineered to create fast, continuous and repeat betting.
Modern slot machines are carefully designed to ensure that the longer you play, the more you lose.
Modern slot machines are highly addictive.
Modern slot machines are engineered to make players lose track of time and money.
Clearly, slot machines are destructive to society and are doing exactly what they were designed to do: create more and bigger losers. Because today’s slot machines are designed to keep people playing, the states that allow them have contributed to today’s economic and social inequality.
Florida lawmakers should not give casinos a license to flood the state with these machines. Of course, the Legislature has already paid $400,000 to Spectrum Gaming Group for a report on gambling and its effects on the state. Yet questions about objectivity plague Spectrum, because of its connections to and work with many gambling interests.
I am absolutely opposed to an expansion of casino gambling in Florida because of my experience in Missouri.
I moved to the Sunshine State in 2008 after watching gambling’s emergence in Missouri, the “Show Me” State. And boy, did casinos show their nasty effects. I watched the effect of casino money on a state that didn’t want gambling in the first place. After gambling changed its name to “gaming” in 1993, Missourians watched employment in casinos tumble as conventional gambling was replaced with highly profitable slot machines.
Employment promises failed, and harm to families from slot machines skyrocketed. Here in Florida, every gambling venue wants slot machines; I wonder why?
As a skeptic after my Missouri experience, I will warily watch as the Legislature weighs the consequences of allowing more gambling in Florida. I hope to be spared a repeat performance of what chaos and harm can occur when government and casinos scratch each other’s back.
Will the Florida Legislature be open to all credible information about gambling? If it’s not, everyone will be a loser. Except casino interests.