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GAMBLE

Is Gambling a Moral Issue?

July 18, 2005

by Wayne Jackson

Is gambling a “moral” issue? Some suggest that it is not; it is merely a pragmatic issue. Reflect upon this matter with us in this week’s Penpoints segment.

Michael Fitzgerald is an award-winning columnist for The [Stockton, CA] Record, a leading newspaper for the north-central region of the sprawling San Joaquin Valley. A recent article addressed the growing encroachment of gambling casinos in California.

While gambling casinos generally are not legal in this state, in recent years they have been sanctioned on behalf of various Indian tribes. The rationale is this: since the Indians were so abused historically by the White man, the noble original American now should be permitted retribution; he is at liberty to exploit the weakness of those whose adrenalin is discharged only by the whirl of the roulette wheel or the rustle of a deck of cards.

But Fitzgerald is much opposed to this Indian uprising, and for a variety of sound reasons. We will summarize them as follows:

 

  1. The journalist first assaults      the so-called “economic” argument. This is the notion that casinos will      bring in huge revenues for the surrounding area, thus providing tax      relief. Not so, contends Mr. Fitzgerald. He cites a 1994 study out of the      University of Illinois that indicated that “the social problems” created      by gambling, (e.g., gambling addiction, domestic abuse, suicide, crime,      indebtedness, etc.) outweigh by far any benefits to the community. In      fact, the gambling enterprise costs “taxpayers $3 for every $1 of state      revenue collected.”

Additionally: “A Creigton University study found that counties with casinos soon have double the bankruptcy rates of counties without casinos.”

  1. Another argument that the      respected journalist employed has to do with the      psychological/physiological damage believed by some authorities to result      from recreational gaming, at least for those who become compulsive      gamblers. Fitzgerald cites Dr. Howard J. Shaffer, of the Harvard Medical      School Division on Addictions.


”’Gambling is an addictive behavior, make no mistake about it. It has all the properties of a psychoactive substance. It changes the neurochemistry of the brain.’ In other words, the excitement of the possibility of winning a huge sum of money, with minimal investment, has a narcotic-like effect on the brain—that calls for greater and greater risks, in the hope of that ‘big’ win.”

According to the popular columnist, one study revealed that 43% of those who gamble have a tendency towards “compulsion,” that intense urge that causes them to get caught up in a frenzy that results in their spending more money than they can afford.

  1. Our journalist neighbor      addressed the environmental aspect of the casino problem. There are      enormous increases in traffic on local highways, as gaming addicts pour      into the casino areas—especially on weekends. Nearby, formerly peaceful      communities are smothered by the influx of those “suckers” (to use      Fitzgerald’s jargon) whose “neurochemically altered heads” continue to l


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