From The Paducah, Ky., Sun:
In a little more than two decades, legal gambling has spread from Las Vegas and Atlantic City to every state in the union except Utah.
Thirty-nine states have lotteries. Casinos are operating in 29 states. Seven states have “video lottery terminals” at racetracks or casinos. Three-fourths of the U.S. population lives within 300 miles of a casino.
Americans spend more on gambling (more than $600 billion a year) than they do on food (about $400 billion).
One study found that 80 percent of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 had gambled in the previous year.
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According to a Harvard Medical School study, compulsive gambling increased by 50 percent from the mid-1980s to the mid-’90s.
In 1999, the National Gambling Impact Commission, a panel created to probe the social consequences of the explosion of legal betting, called on state governments to observe a moratorium on the expansion of gambling. The commission said the nation had not had time to assess the social impact of the huge increase in pathological gambling associated with the proliferation of lotteries, casinos and other forms of gambling.
Revenue-hungry governors and state lawmakers have turned gambling into the national pastime. But it’s still not enough.
Our elected representatives want to create even more gambling opportunities and more gamblers.
Several years ago, representatives of the horse racing industry began pushing the legislature to approve slot machines at racetracks. Increasing the level of gambling at the tracks would “save” Kentucky’s signature industry and relieve the state of its budget woes, racetrack officials said.
Now casinos are back again. State Rep. Larry Clark, D-Louisville, wants to make casino gambling available across the state. Clark’s proposal would allow nine casinos. Clark and his allies have trotted out the same old lines used to turn America into a nation of gamblers.
Education will benefit, they promise. The casinos are for the children. Medicaid, economic development, local government – the gamblers will pay for it.
Frequent gamblers pay a heavy tax for the politicians’ unfulfilled promises of big gains in education and health care.
Too many politicians are addicted to gambling revenue. It’s becoming increasingly clear they won’t stop expanding gambling until the gamblers have no more money to bet.