We've allowed gambling to become part of everyday life. It's been a massive mistake
If you were unaware that we are in the middle of Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, do take a moment to absorb the irony.
Arguably this is great timing. After all, what better moment to begin the battle against gambling addiction than the most gambling-heavy period of the calendar year?
And yet, amid the spring racing season, is there any other time of year when the message is more prone to be flushed away by the torrent of advertising that commands people to do the precise opposite – to gamble, and gamble hard?
Clearly the command is effective. Australia is the gambling capital of the world. This isn't one of those dubious awards like "State's Cleanest City" or "Horsham's Best Pie", it's actually backed up by numbers – at well over $1000 per adult annually, Australians lose more money on gambling per capita than any nation. That's right, it's us on top – not Americans with easy access to Vegas, or the Chinese with the haven of Macau. The nation of two-up and $2 scratchies comes up trumps.
There is nothing, in and of itself, wrong with this. We have a right to spend our money as we wish. And indeed, 80 per cent of us, the highest proportion of any country in the world, wish to wager it. This isn't necessarily a problem.
Or rather, it's never been a problem for me, until I've had to sign some death certificates.
I've written a few such certificates, with the cause of death recorded as pneumonia, cirrhosis or suicide. But a lot of times I wonder if I should write about what caused these terminal maladies in the first place. Yes, the liver failure was due to alcohol, and the alcohol abuse started with the depression. But what caused the depression?
Sometimes the cause is a gambling addiction. I say sometimes, rather than quote hard figures, because it's difficult to statistically quantify indirect causes of death. Often the circumstances leading to the deaths appear as messy as a collapsed house of cards; it can be hard to know which card toppled first.
But at the very least we know this: according to the Productivity Commission's inquiry report on gambling, there are up to 60 suicides a year due to gambling addiction. Let's be honest, 60 dead people isn't much – not enough to care about. This isn't my personal opinion, it's the grey calculus of public outrage.
When tragedies seem self-inflicted, 60 deaths just becomes a number. Deaths matter more if there is a clear victim and perpetrator. Good versus evil is a plot we can all get behind.
Consider every time we in Australia hear about a mass shooting in the United States. Recall for a moment all the pearl clutching, hash-tagging and prayers it inspires here, all the way across the Pacific. But what horrifies us particularly is how damn often these shootings seem to occur.
Yet let's review the numbers. In 2015, there were 475 deaths from mass shootings in America, a country of 340 million. Proportionally, there are nearly twice as many deaths each year in Australia due to gambling addiction-related suicide. That's not even accounting for the non-suicide gambling-related deaths.
The despair we feel for mass shootings on the other side of the globe is genuine. But in a way our understanding of these all too frequent horrors has transcended the victim versus villain paradigm. We have begun to see these events as tragic specifically because we feel they are preventable. They feel preventable because of a sensibility towards guns that we in this nation have cultivated over time and have now imbibed – that they should be controlled. We wince and shake our heads at the abject absurdity of the American gun lobby's refusal to curtail an activity, however recreational, in the interest of saving lives.
Now consider the view of Tim Costello, who is among other things spokesman of the Alliance for Gambling Reform: that the gaming lobby in Australia is akin to the National Rifle Association.
If that crude comparison invokes a reflexive protest within you, fair enough. Pokie machines are not exactly guns. But I would wager that that protest is also, in some way, an emotional defence of an activity we regard as culturally normal.
This is at the heart of our refusal to admit, let alone engage with, one of our nation's biggest issues. We don't believe we are obsessed with gambling because we have done something far more dangerous with it … we have normalised it. We have normalised it far beyond what is normal for any other country on the planet. In other nations, gaming machines are kept only in hotels, casinos and gaming centres. Here they are found in pubs and bistros, and often deliberately placed in our poorest areas.
The past few years have seen an unprecedented rise in media advertising for sports gambling. Betting odds are displayed during games and on ad-breaks between goals for children to see.
Is it responsible to expose children to this while we cannot ensure they are being involved in a mature discussion on the broader issues of gambling?
This week everything ought to be questioned. We have a gambling problem; the numbers don't lie. But we refuse to believe them. Ironically, our misjudgment of numbers is what the gambling industry relies on.
Vyom Sharma is a Melbourne GP.
For help or information call Gambler's Help on 1800 858 858 or Lifeline on 131 114.
The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey Uncovers a "Hidden" Addiction
This press release was orginally distributed by SBWire
Hamilton, NJ -- (SBWIRE) -- 10/21/2016 -- September marked National Recovery Month, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in order to raise awareness about mental health and substance abuse disorder recovery. According to SAMHSA, over 43 million Americans suffer from mental illness, and 20 million have a substance use disorder. Recovery and awareness efforts are imperative to helping those struggling with these disorders. The CCGNJ encourages those raising awareness about recovery to include gambling disorders in their efforts.
Problem or disordered gambling is often called a "hidden addiction" because it manifests with few outward symptoms. Unlike substance abuse, which takes a visible physical toll, gambling disorders are a behavioral addiction that is much more easily concealed from family members and friends. In addition, gambling is legal in some form in most states, making it relatively accessible. Moreover, many gamblers resist seeking help for their addiction due to the stigma surrounding gambling addiction, a misguided belief that their behavior is a moral failure not an addiction and/or shame at the damage that has already been done to their finances, work life and personal relationships.
Problem gambling's hiddenness can have devastating consequences. One in five problem gamblers commits suicide, and this particular population carries with it a high risk of co-occurring substance abuse, mental illness and physical health issues. Overall, the disorder is detrimental to public health, and the only way addiction rates can be reduced is if concerted efforts are made to gain awareness, lift the stigma and get problem gambling sufferers the help they need. Due to the diversity of the gambling addict population and the different types of gambling that occur, ranging from Atlantic City casino gambling from gaming for sports scores in Monmouth, NJ, it's imperative that the proper compassionate, well-informed treatment is administered.
The CCGNJ offers support, treatment and help through its 24/7 hotline, 1-800-GAMBLER. Visit the website to learn more at http://www.800gambler.org.
About The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey is a non-profit, private organization dedicated to helping individuals seek help for their disordered gambling problem, and for concerned friends and loved ones to confidentially express their concerns about someone close to them. Their 24/7 hotline is 800-GAMBLER. The Council also works to train professionals in the fields of gambling addiction and recovery.
Middletown woman pleads guilty to embezzling $535,000
POSTED 2:31 PM, OCTOBER 21, 2016, BY FOX43, UPDATED AT 02:33PM, OCTOBER 21, 2016
HARRISBURG, PA. — A Middletown woman pled guilty to embezzling over a half-million dollars in stolen insurance funds. Diane M. Fabian, 66, was an employee of Wolf Strite Insurance Agency, and later Don Jacobs Insurance Services, Inc. Starting in at least 2008, she began forging customer names on company checks and would deposit the funds to her own account. To get the checks, she would inform the company that a client had been overbilled or that a refund was due – when in fact it was not. In other instances, insurance companies such as Liberty Mutual would issue a refund check, but Fabian would forge the customer’s name, deposit the check and keep the money.
Fabian pleaded guilty Thursday to 76 charges of forgery, theft by deception, and theft by failure to make required disposition, scheming at least $535,000 in stolen insurance funds.
Fabian admitted the scheme to detectives. She said that she was addicted to gambling, and spent much of the money at Hollywood Casino. She has since self-excluded herself from the casino. Most of the charges are third-degree felonies, each of which carries a 7-year statutory maximum. Fabian is set to be sentenced by the Hon. John F. Cherry on January 5, 2017. Lower Paxton Detective James Glucksman worked on this case, as did the Insurance Department of Pennsylvania, and prosecutors David Wilson and A.J. Jarbola.
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call the Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania’s helpline (800) 848-1880 or the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs’ Gambling Addiction Hotline (877) 565-2112. For more information regarding compulsive and problem gambling, please visit http://gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov/?p=66
Debbie P. DiGiulio, administrative assistant in the Mayor’s office, shows Revere Mayor Brian M. Arrigo the voting results regarding slot machines on Tuesday. (Photo by Paula Muller)
By Thomas Grillo REVERE — Voters overwhelmingly rejected a slots parlor near the shuttered Suffolk Downs race track.
In a lopsided 65 to 35 percent vote Tuesday, the city joined Mayor Brian Arrigo and the Beacon Hill delegation in saying no to what opponents called the wrong kind of economic development for the city.
“Obviously tonight, the people of Revere sent a resounding message that no amount of dark money and no amount of false advertising would persuade them to be for a bad idea,” said Arrigo. “Having a coalition of state and local leaders who spoke with the same voice to say this isn’t about being pro- or anti-gaming, this is about being for good ideas and against bad ideas and this is a bad idea.”
Voters in every one of the city’s 21 precincts rejected Tuesday’s non-binding initiative petition that sought approval for any future slot parlor license awarded in Revere to be located on a site that fronts Revere Beach Parkway, Winthrop Parkway and Pratt Court.
The vote delivers a defeat to investor Eugene McCain, who has an option to buy the parcels for more than $6.5 million. He moved to the city to advance his proposal and vowed the project would generate more than $80 million in new revenues for the state annually, $12 million to support horse racing, $5 million for Revere and 500 new jobs.
McCain did not respond to a request for comment.
In an interview last week with the Item, McCain, the managing director of Alliante Capital, was confident that voters want a slots parlor. He was betting on a complicated process that involves local approval for the Revere site and a statewide thumbs-up for an additional slots parlor on the November ballot.
Even if voters had approved the plan in Revere, it faced an uncertain future at the polls next month.
The statewide vote on Nov. 8, Question 1 on the ballot, would allow for a slots parlor at a location at least four acres in size and within 1,500 feet of a race track. The proposal is for a gaming establishment with no table games and no more than 1,250 slot machines.
In addition, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission would have to sign off on the second slots parlor. Observers say such an outcome seems doubtful since it would upend rules of two casinos and one slots parlor that were agreed upon prior to the start of issuing licenses.
The Gaming Commission awarded a resort casino license for the $2 billion Wynn Boston Harbor project in Everett, the $950 million MGM in Springfield and the $250 million Plainridge Park Casino, a slots parlor in Plainville.
Robert Selevitch, a West Revere resident who campaigned against the proposal, was thrilled at the vote.
“The people of Revere saw this proposal as something less than the last one that was here for a full destination resort casino by a very reputable casino operator in Mohegan Sun, this proposal was a slot parlor by group of people who would not identify themselves and had a very shady financial background,” he said. “They presented an option that the people of Revere didn’t see as beneficial.”
Thomas Grillo can be reached at email@example.com.
Commission: Raynham Park simulcast at risk if Suffolk Downs fees remain unpaid
Posted Oct 18, 2016
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted last week to require Raynham Park, which belongs to Brockton Fairgrounds owner George Carney, to pay around $300,000 within 30 days or face the suspension or revocation of its license that allows for simulcast race betting.
RAYNHAM – Raynham Park, a former dog track that continues to operate as a racing simulcast center, is being ordered to fork over more than $300,000 in fees, which Suffolk Downs has long claimed it is owed as part of an off-track betting arrangement that was established by state law.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted 3-2 last week to require Raynham Park, which belongs to Brockton Fairgrounds owner George Carney, to pay the money within 30 days or face the suspension or revocation of its license that allows for simulcast race betting. The two dissenting commissioners said they agreed with a motion to enforce the payment, but wanted to give Raynham Park more time.
Simulcast betting has been the main attraction at Raynham Park, located on Route 138 near the border with Easton, since greyhound racing was banned throughout the state following a ballot referendum that was held in 2008 and enacted in 2010.
The five-member commission was unanimous that it had the authority to make a determination that Raynham Park must pay the 3 percent of its intrastate simulcast revenues to Suffolk Downs for the the time period in question, which was from October 2014 and June 2015. After that time span, the state legislature suspended the fee obligation following the opening of the Plainridge Park Casino.
Lawyers for Raynham Park argued that that Suffolk Downs was not an active horse racing licensee during that period of time, and that the issue should be resolved in court, instead of by the state commission. Patrick Dinardo, representing Raynham Park, said that, in its petition to the state gaming commission, Suffolk Downs never mentioned that 90 percent of those fees would go to the New England Horsemen’s Association, which has a purse agreement with the Boston facility.
“Suffolk Downs is trying to collect these premiums for its benefit, when the statute says that these premiums are supposed to be paid into purses,” Dinardo told the commission during a meeting held in Boston on Thursday. “The point of the premiums was to augment the purses. If you’re not having a racing operation, then there is no purses. From the period in question, October 2014 through June 2015, there were no races at Suffolk Downs, and therefore no purses. ... The New England Horsemen is the real party of interest here.”
Dinardo said if the matter is settled in court, it would be better because all of the facts about the simulcast arrangement would come out through the evidence discovery process.
“If Suffolk Downs wants to bring an action in Superior Court for declaratory relief, and they think they have an entitlement to this premium, we can address that issue in the court, where it's a question of interpreting the statutory scheme,” Dinardo said.
The lawyers for Raynham Park also argued that the adjudicatory guidelines for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission do not contemplate such an enforcement action by the commission.
“Ultimately, it will end up in Superior Court, one way or the other,” Dinardo said.
Catherine Blue, general counsel for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, said that the issue is within the commission’s jurisdiction under the state’s horse racing law, and that the commission could hold a hearing to suspend or revoke Raynham Park’s license if it doesn’t pay the bill.
Reached on Tuesday afternoon, Carney, the owner of Raynham Park, said that Suffolk Downs didn’t apply for a racing license in 2014, and for that reason he believes it isn’t entitled to the simulcast premiums.
“I didn't feel we owed them money,” Carney said. “That's my position.”
Carney said that he and his lawyers are now still deciding whether to take the matter to court themselves.
Commissioner Enrique Zuniga said that he doesn’t buy Raynham Park’s argument.
“The heart of the matter is whether the obligation was there,” Zuniga said. “That's the part I'm not persuaded at all on, the claims from Raynham.”
The following is a video of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission meeting on October 13. The discussion on the Raynhan Park simulcast fees begins at 1:24:30.
Ballot Question 1 in Massachusetts is really all about a single plot of land in Revere.
A casino developer wants to place a hotel and more than 1,200 slot machines on a rundown trailer park adjacent to Suffolk Downs.
Supporters claim it'll create hundreds of jobs and millions in tax revenue.
"We want to take advantage of all these millions of people coming in and out of Logan that, for the most part, if they can't get a hotel room in downtown Boston, they stay out near the airport," said Jason Osborne of the Horse Racing Jobs and Education Committee.
But opponents have called the plan "little league."
Nearly all elected officials in the area are against it. Many are worried about not only social impacts, but also market saturation.