This week, Virginia’s Casino Bill passed another barrier. The Senate General Laws and Technology Committee approved the bill, and has now sent it to the Senate Finance Committee for review. The General Laws committee even added two more cities that would be able to establish casinos, making for a grand total of five cities: Bristol, Portsmouth, Danville, Richmond, and Norfolk.
Proponents of the bill claim that the casinos will, “increase jobs and tax revenues in economically distressed areas.” This is indeed a likely outcome of legalizing casinos. However, gambling addiction makes the ethics of it questionable. Nine independent studies suggest that gambling addicts account for 30-60% of gambling revenues. This fact is not a secret in the industry, judging by the advancements casinos have made in making the atmosphere more and more predatory towards addicts.
The brain of a problem gambler works differently than those that are temperate gamblers. For a gambling addict, the times that they almost win registers in the brain the same way as an actual win. With this knowledge, slot machines started having these “near-wins” occur at higher instances than would happen if it were based on luck instead of algorithms. To no surprise, this illusion of being right on the edge of your luck has been associated with longer play times.
Casinos and most other forms of gambling are businesses, meaning that they have a bottom line they need to accomplish. If a majority of their revenues are coming from compulsive gamblers, they are going to cater to that audience whether it is ethical or not. And they do.
Even if compulsive gamblers were once a minority in terms of raking in profit for casinos, they are still more desirable to reel in than a non-compulsive gambler. There’s less need to entice gambling addicts to come and gamble. It’s less difficult to get addicts to stay longer, and spend more money. Essentially, gambling addicts are the cheapest route to gaining the most money. As such, the business plan of a casino is geared towards the gambling addict, not the occasional gambler.
The predatory nature of casinos is growing with time. Data is the easiest way to confirm which customers will be the most profitable. This data is gained through ATMs, and then that information is oftentimes sold to the casino. Reward programs and loyalty cards that casinos offer are also a method of gaining this valuable data (as well as a profit). The reward programs entice gamblers to come to the casino with free drinks or hotels. The loyalty cards allow the casino to see how many games you played, how many drinks you bought, what times you visit, and how long you play. For the patrons that forego these options, data can and often is still collected through cameras hidden in machines.
This brings us back to the ethical nature of Virginia’s SB 1126 casino bill. Casinos are actively trying to locate compulsive gamblers, and have no monetary benefit for doing otherwise. Thus, it could be argued that the increased tax revenue and access to jobs might mean better prospects for some in the community, but only at the detriment of those in the community that have a propensity for addiction.
Lining your pockets at the expense of someone with gambling addiction might be easier if you tell yourself that it is the fault of the individual (the addict), not the business. I would argue that this way of thinking says more about the person saying it than the person they are referencing. Given that America is a very individualistic society, it makes sense that many would blame the individual for their problems. However, many other societies think more collectively. Thus, addicts are seen as the product of a society that has failed them. This collectivist perspective is optimal; we don’t blame people for getting cancer, so why do we blame people for their addiction? Ultimately, it makes sense that casinos will not buy in to this way of thinking, because it would be a litigious nightmare (i.e. gambling addicts or their families suing casinos for their role in the addiction).
Some proponents say that the voluntary exclusion programs that many casinos offer is a good way of combating the predatory nature of casinos. Unfortunately, these programs do not seem to be well-enforced. In fact, gamblers are oftentimes still able to get into the casino and play games – so long as they are losing. Once they win, they are told they are being arrested for trespassing. This also once again puts all of the responsibility on the addict, while conveniently forgetting all of the ways casinos actively try to entice compulsive gamblers to give in to their compulsions. If the casino’s tax revenue is such a selling point of Virginia’s bill, then that would have to mean that casinos are doing a stellar job at enticing these individuals, right?
It seems as though the advocate’s claims of more jobs and tax revenue for impoverished areas might be more about buzz words than truthfulness. New York has had casinos legalized for the past three years. Yet, they have fallen short of the revenue that was expected by 350 million dollars. If New York’s gambling endeavor has any generalizability to Virginia’s, it is safe to say that the idea of the bill may be more alluring than its reality.
Virginia’s casino bill still has a ways to go before it is a part of legislation. More people need to take action to ensure that gambling addicts are not being purposefully taken advantage of. In 2008, when many states were pondering similar bills to Virginia’s, $106 million was raised by gambling opponents compared to the $167 million of proponents. Pair this with more people sympathizing with buzzwords like “economically distressed areas” over gambling addicts (due to the individualistic perspectives people hold), and you have an easy recipe for silencing the very real concerns people have regarding casinos.
Take action now to help current and latent problem gamblers avoid potential havoc in their lives. Call and talk to your local congressmen and tell them your stance on the bill. You can find out who your congressmen are as well as their phone numbers and addresses here.
If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of compulsive gambling, please call Williamsville Wellness today. You do not have to face this disease alone.
Before the Shift
People often associate gambling and gambling addiction with men and masculinity. Exclusionary perspectives such as these are an even bigger concern in healthcare settings.
Influenced by these ideas, research, and the treatment approaches that proceed it, are heavily male-dominant.
This makes sense.
It’s impossible to expect human beings to completely strip themselves of their biases and notions, which applies to gambling addiction researchers and gambling counselors.
Unfortunately, this meant that for decades, female problem gamblers were placed on the back burner.
In the late 80s and early 90s, a shift occurred where people – including researchers and counselors – started thinking about women gamblers.
This includes research about the areas female gamblers differ from their male counterparts and in what ways. Furthermore, women-only gambling addiction groups started popping up during this time.
These steps were crucial in gaining quality support for female gambling addicts. In fact, these changes sparked a much needed re-evaluation of the one-size-fits-all approach to a more socio-cultural dynamic.
Consequently, the shift caused a demand for more research and literature on the topic.
After the Shift
Prior to the 90s, research participants were predominantly male.
Meaning, the results catered to men, but were applied to the rest of the population nonetheless. With the research and literature produced in the 90s and beyond, it is now clear just how problematic this method was.
Women gamblers differ from men in everything from their motivations to gamble to the actual games they played during active addiction (Problem Gambling Foundation, 2016).
The process by which women develop addiction is even different from a man’s (Problem Gambling Foundation, 2016).
More specifically, women’s roles in society seem to manifest themselves into the lives of female problem gamblers. Women tend to gamble using methods based on luck rather than competition, like scratchers or slots.
Similarly, the complete anonymity of online gambling is alluring to many female gamblers. Some online female gamblers even go as far as portraying themselves as men online.
Although, there are obviously women that do not follow any of these trends. This knowledge can help mold treatment approaches, in that the relationship a woman has with gambling is likely different than a man’s.
A Canadian study found that the population of female problem gamblers had higher rates of childhood physical abuse and sexual abuse than the general population (Boughton, 2003).
The general population has more females experiencing these issues than males. Thus, it is likely that these occurrences are more prevalent in female gambling addicts.
Another point highlighted the woman’s willingness to seek treatment. Some female gambling addicts are dating or married to drug, alcohol, or gambling addicts.
If their partner is against seeking treatment for themselves, women have a tendency to acquire the same viewpoint for their own gambling issues.
This aligns with the societal benefits of women being more submissive than men.
What Does This Mean as a Female Gambler?
Knowledge is power, which is particularly useful in recovery.
Gambling addiction is not a clear-cut disease. Personal experiences, society, and culture all impact its nature. The more you can learn about your own gambling addiction, the easier it will make your recovery. For example, identifying your triggers can be easier knowing why they trigger you.
If you regularly went to bingo halls on Sundays, and now you stay home instead, it might make sense if you were feeling depressed. By not maintaining the social interaction one had in active addiction during recovery, there’s going to be a feeling of loss.
Through a gendered analysis, it makes even more sense if one considers women’s societal roles, with social interactions often being on the forefront.
It’s safe to say that seeking treatment as a female problem gambler is considerably less difficult now, given the shift in research and literature.
However, that does not mean we should forget the considerable impact our gender (or race, socioeconomic status, religion, etc.) has on our addictive nature.
This is not to say you must, or should, only attend female-centered treatment groups. Instead, consider it as another tool in your box, ready to take out if needed.