A group of concerned citizens organized by Casino-Free Philadelphia visited SugarHouse casino last Thursday to ask Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board representatives and casino management to respond to issues raised by CBS’s “60 Minutes” episode on gambling that aired on Sunday, January 9.
Philadelphians will ask Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board representatives, (who have an office inside the casino), and casino management for information necessary to determine if sufficient precautions are in place to protect those addicted to gambling, and for information necessary for the state of Pennsylvania to determine the effects of casinos on its citizens’ mental health.
“The evidence that slot machines are addictive is clear,” said Lily Cavanagh, Organizing Director of Casino-Free Philadelphia. “What the interview showed us is that Gov. Rendell admits the state of Pennsylvania, through the casinos, is purposely going after the paychecks of addicted gamblers to raise revenue. That’s what he called one of ‘the upsides’ of gambling.”
In the “60 Minutes” interview, Gov. Rendell states that a “downside” to gambling is that “some people will lose their paycheck.” He then quickly states, however, that “these people would lose their paycheck anyway” in Atlantic City or elsewhere, and that it should be Pennsylvania that benefits from their loss.
“It makes it hard to believe that real protections for gambling addicts are in place,” Cavanagh said, “especially since neither the Gaming Control Board nor SugarHouse have published any specific plans for protecting gambling addicts.”
The “60 Minutes” episode that aired Sunday presented evidence that slot machines produce symptoms of physical withdrawal similar to that of drug addicts. Natasha Schull, a professor at MIT, detailed some of the reasons slot machines have higher addictive properties than other forms of gambling.
Twenty percent of gambling addicts attempt suicide.
“The governor callously wrote off people suffering from a serious mental illness, along with their families and friends, and this makes the cold, hard facts of casino gambling clear,” said Dan Hajdo, a Casino-Free Philadelphia board member. “Casinos profit off addiction, and the state is saying ‘where’s my cut.’ Government should be protecting the health of its citizens, not asking how to make money off the mentally ill.”
Casino-Free Philadelphia’s mission is to stop casinos from coming to Philadelphia and close any that open. The social and economic costs of predatory gambling are plainly apparent from an industry reliant on addiction to survive. Visit us online at www.CasinoFreePhilly.org.