Friday, May 11, 2012

The "house" that gambling built.

We all remember the description of Yankee Stadium as the house that Ruth built.  When it comes to the new Vikings stadium, it's fair to describe it as the house that gambling built.  That's because the state's share of $350 million is largely funded from expected tax revenues generated by electronic pulltabs and bingo machines.

We've been vehemently opposed to the expansion of electronic gambling, which is the most predatory form of gambling. Electronic or video gambling is the most addictive form of gambling.  Studies estimate that a third to half of video gambling in casinos comes from just one percent of gamblers - those who are the problem gamblers.  

The state's plan calls for the placement of the electronic gambling devices in at least 2,500 bars and restaurants across the state with 25,000 or more machines used.  That means we'll be blanketing the state with these addictive gambling machines and they'll be used in establishments where alcohol is served.  A bad combination to say the least.

Many have questioned whether the electronic machines will actually generate the revenues they're projecting.  Comments by charitable gambling advocates in the media today only reinforced this concern.  
King Wilson, Executive Director of Allied Charities of Minnesota, said the conference bill retains a split in charitable gaming tax revenue that is less favorable than they wanted: The state would get $59 million per year and the charities would get $13 million.

"Obviously, we're disappointed," Wilson said. "At this level, we're not convinced the machines are going to be economically viable."

Wilson said it may not make sense for organizations to install electronic pull-tab and bingo games at this level of taxation.

"I hope it'll be successful," he said. "I hope we're wrong."

The state depends for its share of the stadium funding on taxing new, electronic forms of charitable gaming. Critics have said the funding mechanism is unproven. 

That's coming from the people who should know, those on the ground in the establishments which are expected to use the machines designed to generate the revenue.

What does this all mean?  If they're right, the legislature will be looking for additional funding sources next year or the year after.  What might they be?  A further expansion of gambling?  Slot machines in bars and restaurants?  State run casinos at the horse tracks and elsewhere?  

What the legislature did this week may well have been sowing the seeds of a massive expansion of gambling in our state.  I certainly hope I'm wrong but I've seen in the past how not only do individauls get addicted to gambling so do policy makers who see it as easy, cost free money.  In reality it's anything but cost free.  It destroys individuals and families and corrupts our culture with a get rich quick mentality.  Video or electronic gambling is a predatory business product which is dependent on indebtedness and addiction to be profitable.

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