There is still much work to be done in South Carolina on the issue of gambling.
Have you ever wondered why South Carolina is free of casinos, while other conservative states like West Virginia or Vice President Mike Pence’s home state of Indiana have many? Or why, though horse racing is a sport enjoyed by many South Carolinians, pari-mutuel betting is illegal here, but legal in forty-three other states? Or why, second to Utah, South Carolina is the most restrictive state when it comes to gambling? Much of the restriction on gambling in the Palmetto State can be attributed to the victories and vigilance of Palmetto Family and its allies.
Palmetto Family has frequently stood up against gambling in South Carolina when no one else would. Our victories include outlawing video poker, halting the construction of a new bingo hall in North Charleston and preventing the expansion of gambling in the form of poker, bingo, raffles, gaming machines and casinos. Despite these victories, there is still much work to be done in South Carolina and across the United States.
The Gambling Industry Hurts Families
Many conservatives tend to lean libertarian on issues like gambling, viewing it as the individual’s choice, but what they do not realize is the utter destruction that gambling can bring to families and society as a whole. On top of the obvious economic destruction that gambling can bring, it has psychological implications as well. Gambling addiction is viewed by some as more destructive than alcoholism or even drug addiction. One in five gambling addicts attempt suicide, a rate higher than any other addictions, and it is estimated that there are between three and eight million Americans who show signs of gambling addiction. Gambling, a hobby to some, can become a life-destroying addiction to many others.
The Gambling Industry Preys on the Disadvantaged
The gambling industry preys on the weak, who usually come in the form of the disadvantaged and the addicted. Consider the correlation between lottery playing and low-income populations. According to a 2012 study from researchers at the University of Buffalo, titled “Gambling on the Lottery: Sociodemographic Correlates Across the Lifespan,” people in the lowest fifth in terms of socioeconomic status (SES) had the “highest rate of lottery gambling (61%) and the highest mean level of days gambled in the past year (26.1 days).” A 2008 experimental study in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making found that participants, aware of their status, may play the lottery because of the sense that it “levels the playing field,” because everyone, no matter their socioeconomic status, has the same chance of winning. Studies of South Carolina’s gamblers are consistent with these national findings.
The Gambling Industry Creates and Then Targets the Addicted
The other vulnerable population the industry targets are the addicted, often people who are financially stable, even wealthy, but who become hooked on the feeling that gambling gives them. The Atlantic tells the story of Scott Stevens of Ohio. The COO of a successful investment company, Stevens was conscientious about his finances, both in his personal and professional life. He was the proud father of three daughters and had been married to his wife, Stacy, for 23 years. He certainly wasn’t the “gambling type,” but he got caught in the gambling hamster wheel. Stevens had his first experience with casino gambling while on a business trip to Las Vegas. After his first jackpot, he was hooked. His gambling hobby turned into an addiction over the next six years, eventually leading to Stevens embezzling close to $4 million dollars from his company. The gambling industry preyed on him, spurring him on to borrow more and more money. He lost his job. He became irritable and short-tempered. At this point, he was gambling nearly every day of the week. Because the neurological and physiological reactions to gambling are not unlike those of drug and alcohol addictions, Stevens soon became an addict. He eventually was led to believe his family was better off without him and said in a letter to his wife, “our family only has a chance if I’m not around to bring us down any further.” This habit-turned-addiction eventually led to Stevens taking his own life at age 52.
In a hearing on a bill to expand gambling in South Carolina a few years ago, Palmetto Family invited a mother to testify about the day her Christian husband was led away in handcuffs leaving her to raise two girls alone. South Carolinians are not immune to the negative affects of gambling.
According to some researchers, problem gamblers account for 20 percent of regular gamblers, but create between 30 and 60 percent of total gambling profits. The industry hunts down people like Stevens, enticing them with free drinks and meals, even complimentary airfare and hotel room suites at five star hotels. The industry will claim that it’s the individuals own lack of judgment that ensnares, but really the entire system is rigged to create addicts, and to prey on the already addicted.
Gambling Hurts the Economy More than it Helps
Some arguments made in favor of gambling claim that casinos and other gambling venues can bring economic prosperity to struggling communities. Towns build casinos in hopes of creating more jobs, funding schools and stimulating the local economy. However, the overall economic gain does not outweigh the cost. Earl Grinols, professor of economics at Baylor University and the author of Gambling in America: Costs and Benefits, estimated that with every dollar of benefit a casino brings to a community, it is followed by three dollars in social costs coming in the form of increased crime, declining productivity or more money spent on services like unemployment payments.
We Must Never Stop the Fight Against Gambling Expansion
Every year and in every legislative session, there is always a push to expand gambling in South Carolina. Just this past December, a bill was proposed that would ask voters on the 2018 ballot if they want to allow casinos and betting on horse racing and pro sports, with the money going to fix our roads. The well-worn strategy of attaching gambling to a popular funding priority is usually employed – can anyone say, “education lottery?” Whether bills like this get close to passing or not, someone will always be trying. This is why we didn’t let our guard down and spoke against it in the media. we must and will continue to do so.
There are around six types of gambling that could be or are legal in the state of South Carolina. Though not all forms bring as much harm as casinos, they all follow the same principle that you can get other people’s money without working for it. This undermines work ethic and hurts families. The different forms of gambling include “pari-mutuel betting” (usually used to bet on horse racing in SC), casino cruises into international water (legal off the coast of SC), video poker (illegal but still happening), pitbull and cockfighting (illegal), high stakes poker (illegal in SC), and sports betting (illegal).
Gambling creates addicts and targets the already addicted. It preys on the poor. It destroys families. We must not make light of this grave issue and we must never stop fighting gambling expansion in our state and across the nation.
Help Palmetto Family fight by signing this petition today to tell your fellow South Carolinians and your legislators that gambling should not spread in the Palmetto State!
For further reading on the harmful affects of gambling, Palmetto Family recommends the following resources.
Anna Katherine Daley
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