Saturday, February 28, 2015

RAWA’s Problem with Problem Gambling

There are problem gamblers here.
The rationale for Sheldon Adelson’s push to “Restore America’s Wire Act” (RAWA) seems threefold.  We’ve hammered away at two aspects – the threat to families because children can access gambling sites and ruin Mom and Dad, and the threat of terrorists using the sites to launder money.  But a third – the fact that these sites “prey on the vulnerable” and lead to increases in “problem gambling” – gets less attention.

One reason could be that problem gambling is seen as a real problem by both sides of this issue.  Anti-gambling forces are always horrified to think about gambling addiction and the potential harm it can cause.  Those in the gaming industry also see problem gaming as a big issue, and many do participate in programs designed to assist curb many of the abuses of problem gambling.

But RAWA’s argument than online sites “prey on the vulnerable” and by eliminating online gaming in the US we can curb “problem gambling” is absurd.  And the building you see above is proof.  We’ll get to that in a moment, but for now, let’s discuss how online sites “prey on the vulnerable.”

This is a term CSIG and Adelson’s minions have never defined.  What do they mean, “prey on the vulnerable?” How, exactly?  Just by being online?  Because they advertise?  Do they specifically call out, “Hey, you, Mr. Vulnerable – how about a turn at the roulette wheel?”  These same arguments about preying on the less fortunate or the vulnerable (or some other euphemistic word for “poor”) are always vetted when states consider adding lotteries, as if certain people should be told how to spend their money (seriously, would we tell someone not to buy a type of car or phone or sausage?).  Are they saying the poor shouldn’t be allowed to try to be rich, or at the very least, try to get some more money with their money?  Ah, if they won they’d just waste it on food and clothing.

And when was the last time you heard an online site suggest that a player take out a reverse mortgage so they could continue to play?  Ridiculous?  Pat Robertson, that paragon of fundamentalist virtue, made such a suggestion, and no one called him out for “preying.”

So if we get rid of online gambling, do we rid ourselves of the problem of problem gambling? 

Hardly.  Which brings us to the building pictured above. 

Every Monday from 6:00pm to 7:30pm, Gamblers Anonymous holds an open meeting in room N003 in the building above, in what is referred to as the “north building.”  Of the County Building. 

In Salt Lake City. 


Utah, where NO form of gambling is legal (and, in fact, gambling is a Class B misdemeanor, unless it’s via the Internet, and then it’s Class A).  Yes, people gamble there (and make the two hour drive to casinos in Wendover, NV, and drive up to Idaho to buy lottery tickets).  People always find ways to gamble if they really want to. 

Changing the law does not necessarily create different patterns of behavior.  See: 18th and 21st Amendments to U.S. Constitution.

BTW, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, champion of the House version (HR 707) of RAWA, represents the 3rd District of Utah.  Perhaps he should meet with the good folks at the GA meeting next Monday and ask them how making something illegal works for them.


  1. I agree with you that there is a problem, but let's say we were to eradicate those websites, so that there is no easy access anymore? That would mean that websites like Daily Fantasy Sports, DraftKings and all of the others would have to close up shop. Thousands of jobs would be at stake. Is that a preferable idea?

  2. Henry - that's my point - I don't want the sites eradicated. That solves nothing. Keep draft kings. Keep horse racing. Keep (OK, bring back) online poker. Makes no diff.

  3. The problem is acute, indeed. Agree, eradication and prohibition won't solve the issue.