We’re all used to hearing and reading the serious accusations that for years have been leveled against our industry by gaming opponents. Claims of gaming causing crime, suicide, bankruptcy and even the Asian financial crisis are not new for us. But in the past year alone, findings from three independent major government studies have discredited their claims.
So you can imagine how strange it was to find myself hearing those same arguments from our same opponents last month, in the very room I heard them two years ago during the hearings of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission in Chicago. Yes, there was Tom Grey (still quoting Grinols and Kindt), there was Valerie Lorenz, Anita Bedell, Tom Coats and a cadre of familiar opponents spewing the same old nostrums and inaccuracies.
But this shouldn’t be a surprise for any of us involved in this industry. We know that those who oppose our business are not swayed by the facts. They will continue to repeat their claims, despite independent scientific evidence to the contrary. It is our responsibility as supporters of the industry to learn the facts and make sure the American public understands them.
As most will recall, gaming opponents predicted that the National Gambling Impact Study Commission would send a death knell for legalized gaming in the country. However, the final commission report (even though a majority of the commissioners opposed any form of gaming) recognized the tremendous contribution that casino gaming had brought by way of quality jobs, capital investment and economic development to the new casino jurisdictions in the country.
Unhappy with the NGISC report, United States Rep. Frank Wolf (R -Va.), one of the most ardent foes of our industry, ordered the General Accounting Office (GAO) to conduct another investigation of the industry on most of the same topics covered by the NGISC report. Just two weeks ago, the GAO released their report following an in depth investigation of casino gambling in Atlantic City, and I’m happy to report that just as with the NGISC report, Congressman Wolf did not get the results he wanted. The GAO found “no conclusive evidence on whether or not gambling caused increased social problems in Atlantic City [the only city examined in the study].”
One of the most difficult issues we have had to face as an industry is pathological gambling. While opponents have claimed that approximately 10 percent of our customers are pathological gamblers, this claim has been totally rejected. Research by the NGISC, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences and by the Harvard Medical School, School of Addiction indicated that approximately 1 percent of the adult population meets the criteria of pathological gambling. As the NGISC pointed out “the vast majority of Americans either gamble recreationally and experience no measurable side effects related to their gambling, or they choose not to gamble at all.”
We do recognize that a small percentage of the population doesn’t gamble responsibly, and we want to do everything we can to minimize this problem. Since the American Gaming Association was founded five years ago, we have had a commitment to addressing problem gambling in every way the scientific community has told us to. This has been a commitment in words and deeds. In fact, the NGISC acknowledged that the commercial casino industry is funding more research and doing more in the area of responsible gaming than any other source in the nation through the National Center for Responsible Gaming and our individual company responsible gaming programs.
Many of us have heard the claim that social costs from our industry exceed the benefits. Again, I will cite the federal commission’s research. The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences (NRC) found that “[g]ambling appears to have net economic benefits for economically depressed communities.” Additional research for the commission found that “