Letter: Prevent and treat gambling addiction

The Racing Forum on Motor Parkway in Hauppauge, The Racing Forum on Motor Parkway in Hauppauge, one of the venues operated by Suffolk OTB. Photo Credit: Suffolk Off-Track Betting Corp. 2010

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The story about Suffolk OTB borrowing $90 million for the creation of a video lottery terminal casino is troubling ["Suffolk OTB to borrow $90M for casino, creditors," News, April 29].

What is lost is the social cost of such a venture. Earl Grinols, a Baylor University economics professor, has painstakingly reported to mostly deaf ears that casinos might generate extra revenue in the short term, however, over the long haul, the cost is $3 for every $1 of revenue.

These costs come in the form of medical care, law-enforcement, treatment of mental illness and family destruction. There are lost wages and lost productivity.

Video lottery terminals are designed to exploit women gamblers, according to MIT cultural anthropologist Natasha Schull. Women overwhelming prefer electronic slot machines, and these games can addict people faster. Women are more "escape" gamblers than "action" gamblers, according to Schull.

Unfortunately, gambling addiction is sometimes neglected among addiction research, and even less is known about the woman gambler. Before these casinos are opened, the counties must make sure that there is a prevention and treatment program that deals with this problem.

It's bad enough that we use gambling as a regressive tax on sick people, but we can't do so without at least trying to mitigate the evils.

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Kenneth Gaughran, Owego

Editor's note: The writer is a counselor and blogger on addiction.

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