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HOME > NEWS > Daily News > Gambling Is A Right of Free People

Gambling Is A Right of Free People

5 May 1998

In a special survey conducted by the Gallup organization for "Psychology Today" magazine, it was found that nearly one in four American men and one in eight women can be expected to gamble in some way on the next Super Bowl. Furthermore, according to the report by the federal Commission on the Review of the National Policy Toward Gambling, two-thirds of all Americans have gambled, and some 80% of us approve of legitimized gambling as a means of collecting taxes.

A study by clinical psychologist Julian Tabor and psychology technician James Wright was conducted while they were assigned to the compulsive gamblers' unit of Veterans' Medical Center, Brecksville, Ohio. From their research, Tabor estimates that as much as $250 billion per year is being bet on sports alone, and that the total being wagered on all types of illegal betting may be twice that much. Wright claims the amount being bet tends to be grossly underestimated by the general public. (Most estimates fall between $50 billion and $150 billion per year.)

Nevertheless, our right to gamble has been purposefully and systematically denied by law. Proponents of anti-gambling laws are quick to cite the so-called terrible consequences of compulsive gambling. They cite horror stories of people afflicted with an uncontrollable compulsion to gamble ("Gambleholics" is the latest fashionable term.) They tell about people who neglect their families and generally ruin their lives, much like drug addicts or alcoholics.

But has gambling actually been shown to be a sickness? Igor Kusyszyn, a psychologist at York University in Canada, investigated the results of five different psychological studies that compared people who gamble with people who did not. All five of the studies came to the same conclusion: There are no significant differences.

Kusyszyn was not satisfied and decided to do his own research. Teamed with another psychologist, Roxanne Rutter, he focused especially on heavy gamblers. Using the Personality Research Form and the Personality Inventory developed by Douglas Jackson, they compared men who gambled an average of 19 hours per week with non-gamblers and with light gamblers.

Kusyszyn and Rutter also concluded that heavy gamblers are as psychologically sound as non-gamblers. Moreover, their findings indicate that light gambling does not lead to heavy gambling. Light gamblers who had been gambling as long as 15 years had not become heavy gamblers. This particular conclusion agrees with a finding by Weinstein and Deitch that lottery players almost never put relatively large amounts money into the lottery. But how can one explain those people who truly cannot control their gambling? What about people who end up in groups with names like Gamblers Anonymous? Are these people victims of a genuine medical affliction, or not?

Probably so, but not at all for the reasons many people would have us believe. There is mounting evidence that certain people have what amounts to addiction-prone personalities. These people reach adulthood predisposed to becoming addicted to whatever happens to be handy. That could be gambling, of course, but it could also be food, alcohol, board games, or watching television... You name it. Many psychologists will agree, for example, that more people are addicted to credit cards than will ever be addicted to gambling.

In short, there are no legitimate objective studies that support the theory that gamblers—even those considered to be very heavy gamblers—are, as a group, morally or psychologically inferior to non-gamblers.

But why, then, are so many professional religionists upset by the prospect of legalized gambling? Why do they refuse to accept the results of study after study? No, there is no condemnation of gambling anywhere in the Bible, neither in the Old Testament nor in the New Testament. If your own religious guru claims otherwise, ask him to cite to you the passage. He cannot.

Let me repeat that: No one can produce a single verse of scripture that condemns gambling. In fact, one wonders if citing Biblical opposition to gambling might be tantamount to adding to the Bible, which is emphatically condemned in Revelations 22:18.

In Psychology Today, Jerome H. Skolnick puts forth this interesting scenario concerning professional religionists: "Gambling, much like the practice of religion, might provide a psychological solace for some people from the certainty of dying." He points out that both gambling and religion can give many people a sense of being in control of their own destiny. If such is the case, it is likely that for certain people, gambling may well be, or come to be, a preferable alternative to attending church. (Indeed, it has been shown that less than 30% of those people living in Las Vegas attend church even one time per year.)

According to Skolnick, gambling may be seen by the clergy as competing for their income. Resisting its legalization might be regarded by professional religionists, either consciously or subconsciously, as being a fight for financial survival.

There is little doubt that both the act of gambling and the practice of religion are basic human rights, inseparable from our right to privacy, and that neither can be considered a candidate for legislative abolishment. However, there is also no doubt whatsoever that both must be closely supervised to control fraud and misrepresentation. Customers of both enterprises can easily be cheated. It is, after all, inherent in both businesses that they attract con artists and seedy characters out for a fast buck. Both businesses invite all manner of financial skullduggery, including tax fraud and outright dishonest sales practices.

The odds against winning a gambling game should be made clear to the customer, of course, and those odds should allow a reasonable profit for the game's operator, but what about the odds against being healed of a terminal disease by a witch doctor putting his hand on your forehead? What about the odds of living forever in a mansion in the sky, as promised by a television guru in a $2,000 suit and a $20 wig? Shouldn't both businesses be kept clean by government oversight?

After the "gambleholic" argument, anti-gambling forces usually cite an increase in violent crime. That argument has also been proven wrong by objective studies. According to the findings of the FBI Uniform Crime Report (USA Today, April 24, 1989), Las Vegas has a lower incidence of violent crimes per capita than Memphis, Chattanooga or Nashville, Tennessee, and those three cities have the strictest anti-gambling laws in the "Free" World.

Of those cities with more than 100,000 population, Las Vegas ranks 123rd in violent crimes per capita, even though its disproportionate number of tourists should serve to hurt that standing. The key to understanding who took away your right to play bingo, or your right to bet on your favorite team, is to understand who profits by denying you that right. If you owned a bowling alley, for example, wouldn't it be nice if the only legal entertainment in town was to bowl? Who stands to lose if you spend money on gambling? It's easy to assume that the first money lost might be the money set aside for a day at Opryland, or to go bowling, or to attend a movie...Or as a tithe.

Of course, people will gamble whether or not gambling is against the law. But gambling, itself, cannot be blamed for creating criminals. Put unreasonable restrictions on the sale of bread, and you will create a black market in the sale of bread. Nevertheless, it is self-evident that bread would not be to blame for creating lawbreakers.

Some years back, in Wisconsin, it was actually illegal to sell margarine. Wisconsin is a dairy state, and margarine was regarded as a threat to their economy. Consequently, of course, a thriving black market developed in the sale of margarine. One can only guess how many people went to prison for the sale or possession of Parkay, but there is no doubt that thousands of people regularly and with clear conscience broke the law. The law was an outrage, of course, for the same reasons laws against gambling are an outrage. Margarine was outlawed to protect the rich and powerful few, just as gambling is outlawed to protect the rich and powerful few. To blame gambling for creating criminals makes as little sense as blaming margarine for creating criminals.

These mean-spirited, anti-American laws violate both the intent and the spirit of our United States Constitution. The Supreme Court has side-stepped the issue for years by refusing to hear cases wherein gambling is presented within the context of our right to privacy. The Court should be made to address these violations of human rights as soon as possible. When and if they do, even a right-wing Nixon-Reagan-Bush court can only come to one conclusion: Your right to gamble is intrinsically protected by the Constitution.

Now comes The Mother Of All anti-gambling laws, the Kyl Bill. Senator Jon Kyl, (R, Arizona), has introduced a bill that would not only outlaw gambling per se on the internet, but would also censor the dissemination of any and all information about gambling, including, presumably, all "how-to" material about gambling. No more gambling from your home computer, no more posting of odds by USA Today, no more web sites about how to win at gambling, no more sites like the one you're now reading. The Kyl Bill is as outrageous as anything found in the Middle East. It can be likened to laws concerning Prohibition and/or book-burning—only, it's even worse. This law actually makes it illegal for you or me to lay a bet in a foreign country! It's a nightmare, wholly unenforceable, completely unreasonable, clearly Unconstitutional, and downright immoral.

 
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