Say “No” to Gambling in New York

A ballot measure will come before New York voters on Election Day, asking us whether we will approve a constitutional amendment to permit an expansion of gambling in our state.  The Bishops of New York State have issued a clear statement on this initiative, urging us to consider all the relevant factors in deciding how to vote on this matter.

I have done as our Bishops have asked.  Speaking just for myself (and not in my capacity as an official of the Archdiocese), I strongly urge voters to reject this amendment.

The idea is being touted by state officials as a way to enhance government revenue and increase jobs.  In fact, the measure would just increase compulsive gambling, impose an unfair regressive tax on poor people, and further coarsen our culture by encouraging improvidence, wasteful spending, and vice.

Once you get past the propaganda and deceptions put out by the euphemistically-named “gaming industry”, you can see that gambling is a bad deal for New York, and that there was a reason that everyone once considered gambling to be a vice to be suppressed, not a form of entertainment to be encouraged.

Two recent scholarly studies (see here and here) summarize the negative social effects of gambling, particularly as it will impact New York.  Among their findings:

  • A modern slot machine is a sophisticated computer, engineered to create fast, continuous, and repeat betting.
  • Modern slot machines are carefully designed to ensure that the longer you play, the more you lose — and virtually everyone loses in the short and long run.
  • Modern slot machines are highly addictive — and are designed that way, to attract young video-game players into a more expensive “hobby”.
  • Problem gambling is more widespread than many casino industry leaders claim — far more than the 1% of the population claimed by the industry.
  • Problem gambling affects families and communities as well as individuals — the costs include financial hardships, burdensome debt, loan defaults, fraud, bankruptcy, loss of a business or home, sometimes total destitution, neglect of family and children, the diversion of money from productive to wasteful spending.
  • The benefits of casinos are short-term and easy to measure while many of their costs are longer-term and harder to measure — just ask yourself how Atlantic City is doing these days.
  • State sponsorship of casinos is a policy contributing to patterns of inequality in America — low-income workers, retirees, minorities, and disabled people make up a disproportionately large share of casino patrons, which only increases their economic hardships.
  • This doesn’t even include the awful corrupting effect on our political culture from the massive expenditures by the “gaming industry” to politicians — creating a repulsive marketplace for “legal graft” and back-room influence peddling in our state capital.  Or the deliberate and deceptive slanting of the language of the ballot initiative, in a transparent attempt to gull people into supporting it.  If you have a strong stomach, check out the recent report outlines the sordid political deals that have brought us to this point.

    In their report, “New York’s Promise: Why Sponsoring Casinos is a Regressive Policy Unworthy of a Great State”, the Institute for American Values asks a very pointed question about this ballot initiative:

    The question for New York is a simple one. Is this who we are?

    The answer should be a resounding “No!”  We are better than this.  We should not be wasteful, improvident, and exploitative.  We should not allow any powerful industry to prey upon weaknesses, nor should we allow our government and politicians to profit from them.  We should protect people and their families from vice and addiction.

    Please, for the sake of the soul of our state, and the lives of our fellow citizens.  Vote “No” on New York State Proposal One on Election Day.

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    2 Responses to “Say “No” to Gambling in New York”

    1. Nadine Chiffriller says:

      Thank you for your thoughts. I believe that this measure should not pass in New York State or anywhere for that matter. Lottery money is supposed to go toward helping our schools and you can see what a mess public education is in many parts of New York City. I have a 36 year old nephew who is seeking help for a gambling problem and he certainly doesn’t need any added temptation to gamble.

    2. Peter Rox says:

      You make many good points. I hope that there is plenty of visible opposition to this issue, since you can count on the billionaires who profit from the casinos and gambling to get their views across. The human costs of a gambling culture are astoundingly high.