Another Casino Bill: Still a Bad Idea (SB 242, 2017)

April 13, 2017

For years, Cornerstone has consistently opposed the expansion of legalized gambling in New Hampshire for both moral and pragmatic reasons. We believe the net societal effect of government’s embrace of gambling has been disastrous. We have expressed these concerns to this committee in past legislative sessions, but they bear repeating.

Legalized gambling is driven by and subsists on greed: For this reason, the activity is morally bankrupt from its very foundation. Gambling is also an activity, which exploits the vulnerable — the young, the old, and those susceptible to addictive behaviors. Further, gambling entices the financially disadvantaged classes with the unrealistic hope of escape from poverty through instant riches, thus ultimately worsening the plight of our poorest citizens.

Legalized gambling undermines the work ethic: It is based on the premise of something for nothing, a concept that sanctions idleness rather than industriousness, slothfulness instead of initiative.

Legalized gambling creates gambling addicts: An abundance of research and expert testimony demonstrates that as gambling expands, so does the number of those with serious gambling problems. Millions more Americans have developed devastating gambling addictions over the last few years as a direct result of gambling’s rapid proliferation. Further, these newly created addicts are the lifeblood of the industry.

Legalized gambling breeds crime: Communities that welcome gambling also welcome an increase in crime. Recent history in communities ranging from Atlantic City to Deadwood, South Dakota, to the Mississippi Gulf Coast indicates that the sheer number of crimes skyrockets in an area once gambling is permitted.

Much of this is attributed to the newly created gambling addicts who, in desperation, turn to crime to finance their addiction. Also, legalized gambling makes an attractive target for career criminals. Organized crime has infiltrated numerous legal gambling operations in various states in recent years.

Legalized gambling is an economic negative: Many states and communities embrace gambling as a means to generate additional revenues as well as to inspire economic growth, boost tourism and create jobs. Gambling’s ability to do all of these is either greatly exaggerated or nonexistent.

For instance, gambling often hurts, not helps, existing businesses by siphoning away discretionary dollars that might otherwise have been spent at local shops. Also, the social costs associated with gambling — such as losses due to crime, additional law enforcement costs, gambling addiction treatment costs, and lost work productivity — are staggering, often far exceeding a state or community’s total revenues from gambling.

Legalized gambling devastates families: Authorities in gambling jurisdictions report dramatic increases in divorce, suicide, bankruptcy, and child abuse and domestic violence related to gambling. Research shows that children of gambling addicts experience lower levels of mental health and physical well-being.

Consider this analogy:
By Les Bernal, Chief of Staff, former Massachusetts Senator Sue Tucker (D) given at the National Conference of Gambling States at Harrah’s Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas January 10, 2004

Nearly all of us in the political business have an insatiable hunger for press, especially good press. But here’s two press releases that you should not put your name to.

“Representative Jones Calls for State to Promote Cigarette Smoking to Increase Cigarette Tax Revenues; New Money to Fund Health Programs”

Would any legislator put their name on a release with a headline like that? But why not? People are still smoking in record numbers. They’re driving over the state border to buy their cigarettes so why shouldn’t we get a larger share of the revenues? Increased cigarette sales would mean more jobs and we really need the funding to support our health care needs.

The reality is you wouldn’t go near this press release because it’s absurd logic.

Yet we use the same kind of funny logic when we discuss expanding gambling to pay for state services. Even the most vocal casino supporters acknowledge there are serious costs associated with casinos whether it’s higher social services costs, domestic violence, child abuse, suicide, homelessness and so on.

But as you well know, the response from the pro-casino side is always – “the benefits outweigh the costs.”

To push the analogy further, let’s say you could prove definitively that the potential benefits of increased cigarette tax revenues to the state outweighed the added health care costs that promoting cigarette sales would bring. Would you support the state promoting cigarettes? Why doesn’t that same logic apply with casinos?

Given these and other considerations, it is unconscionable that New Hampshire’s state government would further expand gambling activities in the state. Legalized gambling is already ravaging the lives of an untold number of individuals and families, and contributes substantially to the moral decay of our communities. Therefore, Cornerstone opposes any expansion in legalized gambling.

Addressed by Shannon McGinley of Cornerstone Action to the House Ways and Means Committee, April 2017.