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STATESIDE


community assistance. Others deposit it into the


general treasury, where I suspect much of the money vanishes. In its report, the RG divided those states obligated to allocate funding for prevention/treatment programs into three categories. Happily, my two home states – New Jersey and Pennsylvania – most likely did spend their allocated tax money on RG programs. Other compliant states include Indiana, Maryland, Nevada and New York. States that partially diverted money to other legislative priorities, or completely eliminated expenditures, include California, Iowa, Mississippi and Ohio. Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Oklahoma probably did not spend any of the anticipated tax money on RG issues.


THEORIES


These results do not reflect any geographic pattern or type of gaming operation. Commercial, riverboat and tribal casino properties span all three categories. The RG stated some theories as to why some states do


not take advantage of these programs. Is there a lack of interest now that gaming is so mainstream? Is the public desensitized when hearing horror stories about uncontrolled problem gambling? Although earmarked, the RG determined that different


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sectors may contribute unequally. Some states also include substance abuse programs and limited reporting means few details. Make no mistake, compulsive and problem gambling is a social disease as powerful as substance or alcohol abuse. It devastates families and communities once it reaches a crisis point. My own family experienced this tragic series of events long before I was born. Sam, my dad’s cousin and mentor, hired him to lug pinball machines around after school. Only 12 years older than my dad, Sam helped launch my family’s amusement business journey. Sam secretly loved gambling way too much. He returned home one afternoon in July 1942 to see his wife and two young daughters leaving with suitcases and crying over his growing gambling debts. Alone at only 32, without the help available today, Sam turned the car on in his closed garage. My dad found his body the next morning. I never knew Sam, but heard that story my whole life as a deterrent to out-of-control gambling.


THE PROBLEM?


Since the 1990s, gaming opportunities have exploded, not because jurisdictions necessarily loved the idea, but because they needed money and gaming was a less- painful funding resource. Shrinking or failing economies meant gaming became a tool to generate revenues and not burden struggling taxpayers. In most cases, once casino properties opened and the


money rolled in, the smarter lawmakers realized gaming’s favorable impact. In many places, while gaming was not their first choice, it was a solid alternative that became part of their communities. And, that could be the problem. The RG analyzed media


coverage and found it scarce compared to years ago. Gaming in some regions is now often covered only when major positive or negative events occur. The American gaming industry has always understood


its obligation to protect problem gamblers and has made great strides with solid programs, resources and outreach. Lawmakers must now mandate accountability and action within their own ranks. The rewards of gaming demand the responsibility of doing it right for everyone.


12 FEBRUARY 2020


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