SPG Research Center
Casinos and state lotteries are the most predatory business in America and their windfall is coming at your expense.
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False thinking can ‘recruit’ addictive emotions
Luke Clark (2011) explains how faulty thinking helps trigger the brain’s pleasure centers, creating a cycle of harmful and sometimes addictive behavior in gamblers. Occasional wins, near misses, and machine environmental features all impact cognitive and emotional factors, Clark reports in “Decision-making during gambling: an integration of cognitive and psychobiological approaches.” He notes “(gambling) may provide useful insights into the mechanisms of human irrationality.” His study examines irrational thinking from a cognitive approach, and then from a psychobiological approach, discussing how the brain’s reward system reacts to gambling. The two combine, he suggests, in an anomaly – with cognitive distortions recruiting the brain’s reward system.
An early review at ‘harm minimization’
Australia has been into government-sponsored machine gambling for decades, but unlike most US jurisdictions, the government units have made some efforts to study and look for ways to minimize harm to customers. (Government acknowledges it is harming it citizens, but seeks generally to lessen the degree of harm.) In this industry-funded study, researchers experimented with reducing speed of play, reducing the maximum bet per play, and reducing value of bill denominations accepted by electronic gambling machines. As Schull (2012) noted in her book “Addiction by Design,” these factors are key elements machine manufacturers use to extract the maximum amount of losses from players. In this University of Sydney study, “The Assessment of the impact of the Reconfiguration on Electronic Gaming Machines as Harm Minimization Strategies for Problem Gambling (2001), the authors conducted experiments in convenience machine gambling areas to determine how much these three key elements impacted game enjoyment, losses, and “harm” from addiction.
Addiction: Morals or neurology?
Recent views of psychology have suggested conscious thought serves, at best, as an advisor to behavior (See Lehrer, 2010, How We Decide). Salesmen well know the impact of emotion over reason, and gambling enterprises an illicit drug dealers rely entirely upon recurrent irrational behavior of consumers. Steven E. Human of Harvard University discusses the roles of cognition and neurochemistry in the development of addictions in “Neurobiology of Addiction: Implications for Voluntary Control of Behavior.”
Duty of care from the casino side
Though written from a gambling industry bias, Kelly and Igelman (2009) examine some of the intriguing cases involving “duty of care.” Perhaps with the exception of undisclosed out-of-court settlements, casinos and other gambling businesses have largely avoided the setting of legal precedents that could be used in lawsuits by people whose lives have been ruined by gambling’s products. Their article explores “self-exclusion,” contending the entire weight of responsibility for enforcing such exclusions belongs with the gambler and little or none with the provider of gambling products. In many cases, gamblers who have excluded themselves continue to receive enticements from casinos. When those gamblers “relapse,” the gambling businesses continue to take their money, but if the excluded gambler wins large, the casinos refuse to pay, based on the exclusion agreement. (Author Joseph M Kelly is co-editor of the Gambling Law Review and Economics journal that published the article. The other co-editor is I. Nelson Rose, perhaps the nation’s leading legal advocate for gambling interests. Kelly is the former consultant to Antigua, and advocate for Internet gambling. The review’s co-author, Alex Igelman, is an attorney whose LinkedIn profile notes he is special consultant to the Stonarch Group, one of America’s largest horse racing operations, and one expanding into other gambling interests.)
Dissenting judge asserts casino “duty of care”
“It seems clear that both the casinos and the State of Indiana share a common interest in gamblers – pathological or otherwise—losing as much money as quickly as possible. One wonders if Indiana’s legislators—and more importantly, their constituents—have any qualms about balancing the State’s budget on the backs of gamblers, especially those who are least able to resist and/or afford gambling. I would conclude that public policy favors imposing a common law duty on Caesars in this case.” Wrote Judge Crone of Indiana.
The casino does have a duty to its customer, a known pathological gambler, Crone argued. “To hold otherwise would be to conclude that there is no level below which a casino (and thus the State of Indiana) may not go in enticing patrons and encouraging their reckless behavior. I believe that Hoosiers would expect more from their government and the businesses that operate here.”
Casino marketing models generally include evaluating how much each customer has available to lose. With that in hand, they develop corresponding enticements such as free rooms, food, and copious amounts of alcohol, to encourage “valuable” customers to lose everything they have, and then some. So far, the industry has evaded the legal issue of “duty of care.” This legal concept allows us to seek damages from others who harm us when a reasonable and prudent person should know the harm they are causing. Clearly, enticing gambling addicts and seeking to extract all of a person’s resources from them should violate the duty of care. However, casinos have and will continue to expend extraordinary resources to prevent anyone from collecting damages and setting a legal precedent that gambling business has any such duty. When government becomes a partner with gambling, it fails to protect its citizens from harm, and, as this judge’s opinion, encourage harm.
Indiana Court of Appeals, Judge Crone, dissenting.
Caesars Riverboat Casino Vs. Genevieve M. Gephart
Machine gambling faster track to addiction
In this hallmark study, Robert Breen and Mark Zimmerman (2002) demonstrate how much faster gamblers become addicted to machine gambling than more “traditional” modes of play. Their study, conducted from the Brown University School of Medicine, demonstrated development of pathological gambling as defined in the DSM-IV criteria for mental illnesses reached 1.08 years, as compared to 3.58 years for non-machine gambling. This “latency,” or the time it takes to become a problem gambler, did not vary with age, gender, or the presence of other mental illnesses. Their work, “Rapid Onset of Pathological Gambling in Machine Gamblers,” was first published in 2002 as a wave of electronic gambling was sweeping across the nation.
Study Shows Far Better Strategies Exist to Create Jobs Than Casinos
As part of their costly public relations campaigns to gain approval for casinos, gambling operators and their supporters commonly promote the narrative that there is little alternative to their proposal to “add” jobs to a region. “If not this casino,” they ask, “what else is there to put local people to work?” While there are no short cuts to building real prosperity in a community, there are much better options than the path of failure offered by casinos. Here is one: Economists James Heintz and Robert Pollin of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, found that infrastructure investment spending in general creates about 18,000 total jobs for every $1 billion in new investment spending. This number include jobs directly created by hiring for the specific project, jobs indirectly created by supplier firms, and jobs induced when workers go out and spend their paychecks and boost their local economy. Below is their 2009 report.
Facebook online casinos ‘tempting young to gamble’
The UK’s MailOnline reports online gambling giant 888 has struck a lucrative deal with Facebook to offer Las Vegas-style slot machines and other games funded by credit and debit card transactions up to £500 (roughly US $761). Facebook and its gambling partners have been training youth with slot and bingo-style games. The Mail quotes Mark Griffiths, professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University citing research showing that playing free games online is a big factor in developing problem gambling. He warned the new apps will open the floodgates as “gambling companies dive into the social media frenzy to make money. It is thought Facebook will take a 30 percent cut of all bets placed.”
These free games are available to US customers as well. Online game giant Zynga for months has featured intrusive popups and ads pushing their slots and poker games in their ubiquitous “Words with Friends” blockbuster game.