Marketing to gambling addicts

November 25, 2013 9:30 am

Oregon is one of many states in search of ways to raise revenues through increased gambling. The problem is there are only so many people who gamble. As such, the state is becoming more and more dependent on marketing to problem gamblers.

In 2011, Oregon officials hired a consultant to learn more about the gambling habits of residents. The consultants examined the habits of gamblers who play video slot and poker machines in bars and restaurants. The consultants found something very disturbing: the majority of gamblers sat in front of the machines alone and played until their money was gone.

Essentially, the bulk of the players had a gambling problem. But rather than do something about the problem the state had created, Oregon officials embarked on an aggressive marketing plan designed to increase play on the machines, according to a report in The Oregonian. The findings should raise a red flag for other states – like Pennsylvania – that are moving to allow video gambling machines in bars and taverns.

Many gambling experts have said that such video gambling machines are among the most addictive. Rather than curb problem gambling the state is looking to feed the addiction.

The Oregonian reported the five-member state Lottery Commission approved spending $250 million over five years to replace the agency’s 12,000-plus video machines with state-of-the art models. The first 3,000 machines are expected to be in taverns, restaurants, strip clubs, bowling alleys and gambling-oriented “delis” by late spring.

The job of elected officials is to protect citizens, not enable policies that destroy lives and ruin families.

O’Malley’s casino folly

July 26, 2012 11:40 am

Lawmakers do the darndest things when it comes to pushing more legalized gambling. Take Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. He has got himself so far out on the proverbial limb in his effort to round up enough votes to add another casino that he is agreeing to all sorts of convoluted deals. (Disclosure: I like O’Malley; think he is a good politician; and even shared a few pints of Guinness with him when he was a city councilman and played in his Irish rock band, which recently played the White House. But he has lost his way over gambling.)

The Baltimore Sun editorialized on O’Malley’s plan to call a special session to approve a bill to expand gambling. In effort to get enough votes to pass the bill, the governor has backed several provisions that make no sense and are virtually impossible to guarantee. The Sun called the measure a “Rube Goldberg of a bill.”

But this is often what happens when lawmakers get in bed with casinos. Like the addicted gamblers that flock to the casinos, lawmakers keep rolling the dice hoping to strike it rich.

Enjoy the show but keep gambling

June 26, 2012 5:32 pm

New Jersey lawmakers want visitors to enjoy Atlantic City – just as long as they keep gambling.

The state Assembly voted 77-0 to approve a measure that would allow casino and racetrack customers to use mobile devices to gamble anywhere they want on the property. State senators are expected to vote on the bill Thursday. It would take effect once Gov. Chris Christie signed it.

Essentially casino customers could take the mobile device to gamble by the pool, at a show, dinner or back to their hotel room. Got to go to the bathroom? Take the mobile gambling device with you. At least that will provide some, ah, relief for slot machine addicts who have been known to wear adult diapers so as not to lose their lucky machine.

And that’s what this measure is really all about: Keeping gamblers, gambling in order to generate more revenue for the struggling casinos and the state. The Jersey lawmakers tried to spin it as some sort of customer-friendly service, which they can’t even bring themselves to call gambling.

“There are so many enjoyable things to do at Atlantic City’s casinos and hotels, it just makes sense to allow guests to take their games along with them,” said Assemblyman John Amodeo, R-Atlantic. Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, D-Hudson, chairman of the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee, said: “If a couple or a group of friends … wants to lounge by the pool, or take in a show or dinner, those who want to take advantage of gaming attractions can now have it at their fingertips so they don’t have to miss out on any of the action.”

But the bottom line is the measure is not going to help the casinos much. (Not to mention, by reading some of these comments this is not a service average citizens want or support.) Nevada approved mobile gambling in 2009. So far, the move has only contributed $84,000 – or 0.01 percent – to the state $865.5 million in gambling tax revenue.

In other words, New Jersey lawmakers should not feel good about enabling a service that will mostly keep gambling addicts gambling.

Super Bowl preys on gambling addicts

January 26, 2012 9:20 am

For many Americans, gambling on the Super Bowl is as much a part of the day as the nachos, beer and cool commercials. A Super Bowl pool seems like harmless fun. But it is a big problem for many gambling addicts.

Calls to gambling hot lines spike around the time of the Super Bowl, according to this stories here and here. The impact on families can be destructive as this recovering addict in the local ABC News story explains.

“Gambling almost cost me everything that was important to me — my family, my marriage,” said Lee who didn’t want her full name revealed. “It was ugly, and it finally got to the point where I got into some serious trouble through theft from an employer.”

Get ready for more calls to gambling hot lines if New Jersey lawmakers move forward with a proposal to legalize sports betting in Atlantic City. The measure could open the door for sports betting in other states. No doubt many gamble already. But such a move will only make it easier for people to gamble. More is not better as this study on the gambling mentality shows. Plus it is a sucker’s bet.

An endorsement of sports betting by the government sends the message that it is ok to gamble. The marketing that will follow will only lure people to gamble who do not want to deal with a bookie. 

Instead, the government will be your bookie.