The truth behind ‘facts and figures’

Apr 30, 2007 4:32 AM

(This is part 2 of a discussion of the tactics used by anti-gambling forces that are trying to influence legislative changes in the gaming laws in various jurisdictions.)

There is a vehement backlash against the proposed repeal of the $500 loss limit (per 2 hour wagering session) in Missouri among anti-gaming groups that may affect legislators in Colorado’s decision to maintain, increase, or abolish our $5 wager limit.

Besides Missouri, Colorado and South Dakota are the only states that enforce any semblance of wagering limitations.

The point of contention that I raise is that while anti-casino groups may be well intended, the "facts and figures" provided through neither valid nor reliable research methodology does not help the cause of those wishing to see a moratorium or even abolition of legalized gaming.

The largest and possibly most influential group (at a national level) is the National Coalition of Legalized Gambling (NCALG.ORG). You can do your own research, but here is just a sampling of "factual discourse" from the NCALG web page to reinforce my assertion.

From the NCALG web page, "When gambling appears in a community, it brings a wave of addiction. In a mature gambling market, compulsive gambling typically seizes the lives of 1.5% to 2.5% of the adult population. That amounts to three to five times the number of people suffering from cancer."

Nothing beats a suppositious comparison. Does this statement imply that prior to accessibility to gaming, there was a 0% addiction rate? Why didn’t these pundits of truth declare that gambling addiction rates are only about 1/30th of the rate of obesity or that compulsive gambling affects approximately the same number of people who have Chlamydia (maybe they caught it from the dice)? Because the Big "C" packs an emotive punch, that’s why.

Here’s another doozy from the same source quoting "The Impact of Casio Gambling on Bankruptcy Rates: A County Level Analysis. "It takes three to five years for gamblers in a newly opened market to exhaust their resources. When addiction ripens in the market, so do the social costs. The most recent study of all the casino counties in the nation confirmed personal bankruptcy rates are 100% higher in counties with casinos than in counties without casinos."

Wow, 100%, that’s a conveniently round number. What was the bankruptcy rate in these same counties before casinos? Since casinos are often located in areas of economic distress, the higher bankruptcy rate might be a factor of the demographics of the host locale.

In Tunica, Mississippi, there are many individuals who were on government assistance and found jobs with benefits at the supposedly societal sucking casinos mitigating bankruptcy.

Hands down, the following direct quote from the CasinoWatch website is my favorite bit of malarkey. The piece is titled, The $500 Loss Limit Does Not Interfere With Recreational Gambling. "Under current law, someone may lose (and the casinos may gain) $500 per every two hours, $6,000 per day, $42,000 per week and $168,000 per month at a casino”¦ The $500 loss limit helps to reduce pathological gambling: The "Recreational Gambler" is able to gamble and lose up to $500 per "cruise" and $6,000 per day. The loss limit does not restrict this "recreational" gambling. The loss limit only prevents gambling in excess of the $500 loss. Those who gamble and lose more than $500 per every two-hour "cruise" or more than $6,000 per day are mostly the pathological gamblers who are least able to control their gambling and who are most responsible for the societal costs of problem gambling."

I do not claim to be a math wiz or cracker-jack researcher, but let’s take a gander at this statement. By typing in to any search engine "Missouri Casino Hours" one quickly finds out that casinos are not operated 24 hours on weekdays. So for kicks, we’ll recognize that at most, there are 20 hours per day when gambling takes place and not 24. Of course, this negates the initial $6,000 per day figure (i.e., $500 x 12 two-hour phantom cruises). Giving the "researchers" the benefit of the doubt, we’ll say $5,000 a day for the weekdays and $6,000 per day on the weekends. So we are at, utilizing this logic, $37,000 a week.

You show me a guy who can blow $37,000 a week (while staying awake all but 4 hours a night on weekdays and going full tilt on weekends) and I’ll show you a guy who has a serious meth distribution network and addiction.

All kidding aside, this math does not take into account that there are limitations such as time and wagering dollars. Also according to this model, the player loses each and every bet. Is this the guy who at the start of every gaming session buys in for $500 and demands "hit me" when holding a hand total of 21 against a six up card?

With casino games, between 85 and 95 percent (on average, based on hold) of the money wagered is returned to bettors in the form of winnings”¦ A gambler with $50 to bet on slot machines, for example, could stretch that money over the course of an entire day.

By the time he is eventually cleaned out, he may have wagered more than $500. But he’s only spent $50 out of his own pocket. In tandem with this scenario, I could make the argument that the easiest way to accrue a fortune would be to sell my blood plasma for $35 per visit (the going rate). Unfortunately like gambling cash and waking hours, there is a limit to the amount of plasma that can be sold.

The point of all this is, you can’t blindly accept the arguments from some anti-gambling groups because they tend to either misstate the facts or selectively report them.

Neither practice helps their credibility.

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