Magazine article U.S. Catholic

We're Gambling with the Future

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

We're Gambling with the Future

Article excerpt

Children are the latest victims of America's addiction to legalized gambling

AMERICANS ARE APPARENTLY A PEOPLE WHO ENJOY the risk of a wager. So much so that they re currently putting as much, as $600 billion a year on the line in the nation's various lotteries, racetracks, and at Internet and real-life casinos.

Our love of gambling also puts at risk something infinitely more precious than mere money--our future. A study ordered by the federal National Gambling Impact Study Commission (NGISC)--the first comprehensive review of this great national pastime since 1976--finds that rates of problem gambling among adults have predictably doubled since gambling became the subterranean tax of choice in 37 U.S. states. But the study also found that America's children may be the unintended victims of the willingness of states to tolerate, even encourage, the growth of the "gaming" industry and the institutionalization of gambling through state lotteries.

According to the NGISC, about 5 million adults are pathological to problem gamblers, and another 15 million adults are at risk for problem gambling. And those troubling percentages may only escalate as a generation raised on Lotto machines and legalized gambling comes of age among us. The NGISC study reports that the percentage of 16- and 17-year-olds who are at risk of becoming pathological gamblers is double that of adults.

Other studies have found children as young as 11 gambling among themselves or picking up a lottery ticket at neighborhood convenience stores. Psychologist Durand Jacobs of California's Loma Linda University Medical School reports that 12 to 17 million U.S. juveniles have gambled for money, and that perhaps as many as 2 million have been experiencing serious gambling-related problems.

The Rev. Tom Grey is the executive director of the National Coalition Against Gambling Expansion. He says that in 1970 the Mayo Clinic treated pathological gamblers in an age range between 30 and 55. In 1990, it was 17 to 70.

"What we're seeing is a rapid explosion in gambling that has penetrated two age groups that have previously been uninvolved. They've got video displays for the younger people and [day-tripping] `Slot Clubs' for senior citizens. They've packaged it as entertainment, just like shopping and the movies. They took the `bl' out of gambling; now it's gaming--it's fun. …

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