Reappraising the issue of gambling

June 22, 1999

Here is an editorial from the Boston Globe, which was published Sunday.

A NEW national report on gambling has sound advice, making it hard to ignore gambling's many problems, from addiction and youth gambling to the industry's financial hold on elected officials. We hope the findings will not go unheeded.

Issued by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, the report observes that too many governments make patchwork decisions about gambling. Instead of hasty action, the commission suggests, there should be a moratorium on any expansion of gambling so policy makers can take time to think. It's a good idea but unlikely to succeed, given the money-fueled passion of gambling proponents.

And other commission ideas, because they are hard to do well, stand to be ignored, especially a prohibition on Internet gambling. But there should be fast action on the recommendation that gambling-related problems should be added to existing federal research on substance abuse and mental health. And the commission wisely suggests that regulatory agencies set rules that would permit gambling enterprises to refuse customers with pathological gambling problems.

Another worthwhile step would be for the federal government to collect and disseminate detailed case studies of specific municipalities, from Las Vegas to less well-known places in New Mexico.

The studies should examine revenues, traffic impact, how much regulation is needed, police costs, security needs, divorce rates, whether nongambling retailers are hurt, and the impact on employment rates. The results would help illustrate some of the commission's points, such as its observation that job quality is better in resort casinos than in those that serve a local clientele.

But the commission can't force action. That has to come from the public and the politicians.

Pub Date: 6/22/99

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