Man threatens casino after wife loses $30k

February 27, 2013 3:51 pm

“My wife is at your casino, get her out of there or I am going to come up there with an AK-47 and [expletive] you and that place up.”

So began a telephone call from a man who said his wife had lost $30,000 at the Delaware Park Casino in Wilmington, Del., the News Journal reports. Brandon K. Buchanan, 28, of Wilmington, Del. said he was “fed up” with his wife’s gambling losses. He threatened to use a gun in order to let his wife know he was serious.

Buchanan was charged with first-degree reckless endangering, possession of a firearm during a felony, and possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, according to police. The incident is an extreme example of what can happen to families when gambling addiction takes hold. Studies show that divorce, suicide, crime and bankruptcy increase in the 50-mile area where a casino locates. (See a report by Baylor University economics professor Earl Grinols on the social costs of gambling here.)

Left unsaid is how casinos attract and keep problem gamblers coming back. It’s a safe bet that Delaware Park treated Buchanan’s wife like a VIP. She was likely offered free play coupons to get and keep her coming back to the casino as well as other perks. The goal is to keep gamblers coming back again and again. The industry term is known as “play to extinction.” (See video of problem gamblers here.)

This is the underside of gambling that lawmakers and casino operators don’t mention when boasting about the tax revenue that comes from casinos. But the sad reality is much of the casino tax revenue comes from problem gamblers. One study found that 60 percent of slots revenue at casinos comes from problem gamblers.

Asleep at the slot machine

October 2, 2012 10:16 am

The management at a Las Vegas casino wrote a comical letter defending its handling of a customer who it says fell asleep at a slot machine. The issue in dispute is silly: lost winnings of $15.

But the casino’s letter is telling for what it does not address: problem gamblers logging long hours at slot machines.

The fact that some gamblers fall asleep at slot machine should be a shock, but apparently not to casino operators. (See photo here of another sleepy slots player.) The casino points out this particular gambler is a “regular” at the casino who often falls asleep at the machine. (He initially wrote a letter claiming his gambling winnings were stolen and the casino did nothing but asked him to leave, which prompted the casino’s response claiming the gambler nodded off.)

Call us crazy, but a regular gambler who repeatedly falls asleep at a slot machine may single a person who gambles too much, or at the very least for too long. It sure undermines the notion that gamblers go to casinos for fun and entertainment. The fact that the casino is aware of the issue but does nothing about it shows how little casinos police issues of problem gamblers. The truth is casinos are designed to lure customers back again and again and to keep them gambling for as long as possible. Hence, no clocks or windows in casinos, and plenty of free drinks and cheap buffetts. (Gambling late at night is the most dangerous time and sleep deprivation adds to gambling risk.)

But that is the casino business model. The industry even has a name for it: “Play to extinction.” The troubling tactic is even more alarming when you consider that governments – which are supposed to protect the public – sanction and essentially partner with casinos in a business that is designed to empty the pockets of taxpayers.

Play to extinction

May 9, 2012 1:01 pm

Here is a great read by The National Review that cuts through the clutter and details what is really behind the growth in casinos across the country. Casinos are not about jobs or economic development. They are about raising easy money for state governments.

The upshot is a joint partnership between the casino industry and state governments to lure citizens to “Play to Extinction,” a term used by the industry to keep gamblers spending money until they are broke. The piece also captures the scene inside many casinos as poor and elderly gamblers arrive via buses and trains “on crutches and canes, lapping obesely over the seats of mobility scooters, adjusting oxygen tubes, discreetly nursing Big Gulp cups full of tequila and Pepsi through bendy straws at three in the afternoon.”

Deputy managing editor Kevin D. Williamson adds that the gamblers “come rolling and thundering down the tracks bearing our Social Security checks, our welfare checks, and quite possibly our rent checks. We are the blue-rinsed, unhinged, diabetic American id on walkers, and we are scratching off lottery tickets the whole way there as we converge from all points on the crime capital of New Jersey — because we are feeling lucky.”

Some hyperbole perhaps. But not much.

The piece does a fine job of making the case that casinos have done little to help struggling cities like Atlantic City or poor states like Mississippi. But the legalization of gambling has certainly made a lot of casino owners wealthy. And the casinos have generated revenue for state coffers. But that has not translated into better government services or lower taxes. As The National Review concludes: “Call gambling a vice, call it an addiction, call it a harmless diversion, call it anything you fancy — but don’t call it economic development.”

Luring in gambling addicts

March 26, 2012 1:32 pm

Casinos market to gambling addicts for the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks: Because that’s where the money is. A casino outside of Chicago was fined for trying to lure self-proclaimed gambling addicts in to gamble.

The Rivers Casino sent cash advances and rewards cards to gambling addicts who had voluntarily put their names on a list that bans them from casinos. This is like offering free cocaine to recovering drug addicts. The casino said it was an honest mistake. Sure, and their names were probably just randomly picked out of the telephone book.

The fact is this: studies show a large percentage of casino revenue comes from problem gamblers. (See here, here, here and here for just some of the studies.) Without problem gamblers, casinos, especially the local convenience casinos, do not have a viable business model. So casinos do their best to keep problem gamblers coming back until they are broke. Hence the term, “Play to Extinction.” (Check out this video from Stop Predatory Gambling.)