Meetings & Information


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Loss Limits!

When a 'Predatory Industry' that depends on CREATING ADDICTION protests that something is 'ineffective,' it's probably because it IS EFFECTIVE!

Voluntary limits won't stop gambling addiction: Viewpoint

Casino Vote -Ballot Question 3
Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, left and City Solicitor Edward M. Pikula celebrated the victory for casino gambling as a referendum issue on Nov. 4 at the Basketball Hall of Fame. (Mark M. Murray photo)
Ron Chimelis | By Ron Chimelis |

on November 21, 2014
You didn't really think the gambling debate in Massachusetts would end on Election Night, did you?
Nearly three weeks after the casino issue in Massachusetts was presumably settled, the fight is still being waged on other fronts. Like Confederate soldiers after Appomattox, some anti-casino citizens remain loyal to their cause, arguing for a cause that was lost at the ballot box.

Even among those who accept the reality of casino gambling in this state, discussions are being aired that should have been heard before the election. One is a proposal that would require casinos to reward gamblers for voluntarily setting limits on the time they spend, or how much they can lose, at slot machines.

Of all the games people wager to play, slot machines are the most ruthlessly addictive. It requires no skill and about one second of time. The insidious nature of the slots was one of the better arguments waged by the anti-casino forces in an otherwise uphill fight.

Not only should any debate over setting a "loss limit'' have occurred before the election – and not on Thursday, when the state Gaming Commission met with casino representatives – but it won't effectively address the problem of gambling addiction.

The Gaming Commission probably had to wait until after the election for formal discussion with the casino people. Until the vote came in, casino gambling in Massachusetts remained theoretical, and a state agency cannot legislate theory.

These questions, however, could have been raised informally at any time. Now that they are, the notion that putting a ceiling on a gambling session at the slots will help control addiction is too rosy to be trusted.

Robert DeSalvio, who is in charge of the casino project in Everett, told the commission that it would only encourage problem gamblers to come back for more. That would be the worst possible approach to the problem, he said.

Opponents will argue that casino executives will dispute any state-regulated control. They could be right, but that does not make DeSalvio's contention incorrect.

The Gaming Commission has a responsibility to keep a very close watch on this new gambling frontier. So do the cities involved, including Springfield, where Mayor Domenic Sarno's cheerleading for the casino does not absolve the city from making sure the industry is as responsible as possible.

The fact remains, however, that Massachusetts voters endorsed casino gambling by a 60-40 margin. The nature of the industry is no secret, even as its value remains hotly debated.

If casinos are welcomed into Massachusetts by public vote, only to have state regulators set on a course to "clean it up,'' the entire process was misguided.

Other regulations will surface that could very well address the problems casino gambling may bring. From this perspective, a loss limit on slot machines is well-meaning but just won't work.

Even casino advocates could not deny the problem of gambling addiction. It will never be solved; the debate will now focus on how much it can be regulated, and how much responsibility fall on the gaming industry to regulate choices made by individual citizens.

State regulators are charged with monitoring the industry, but not overhauling it. As the Gaming Commission settles into its role as a public watchdog, it should keep that in mind.


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