Problem gambling must be part of compact debate
The debate over renegotiating state-tribal gaming compacts, which confer monopoly rights to casinos, has focused mostly on dollars and cents. But the debate should also focus on the societal fallout of casinos: the ripple effects of problem gamblers.
The reality of problem gambling is now constant in Oklahoma, as individuals are constantly being sent to prison for embezzlement and theft driven by gambling addiction. Those sent to prison include everyone from school officials to state government leaders.
And gambling doesn’t have to lead to prison to ruin someone’s life. For example, a study of members of Gamblers Anonymous found 26 percent had gambling-related divorces or separations.
Yet, of the paltry $139 million in casino exclusivity fees collected by Oklahoma government in 2018, in exchange for the monopoly given to current casino operators, just $250,000 went to treatment of problem gambling, or roughly one-tenth of 1 percent. (Another $750,000 for treatment comes from lottery proceeds.)
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