| October 1,
The Slots Vs. the Church
by Mike McManus
POTOMAC, MD - In this corner are the gambling interests spending $10 million to
convince Marylanders to approve a Constitutional Amendment to allow the opening
of 15,000 slot machines in five locations. In the opposite corner is Stop Slots
Maryland that has raised $30,000 to defeat predatory gambling.
Ah, but Stop Slots also has the support of the Catholic, Lutheran, United
What are the odds of success of this David vs. Goliath fight?
First consider lives that are at stake. Pastor Greg Hogan flew from Ohio to
Maryland to tell the story of Greg Hogan Jr., his 19-year-old son, who had won
an international piano competition and was President of his Sophomore Class at
Lehigh. One night a student came into his room and claimed that he had won
$120,000 by internet gambling.
Within minutes, he posted a link on Greg's computer.. That began Greg's gambling
through the $8,000 he came to college with. He began borrowing from friends, but
could never pay them back. As he told Good Morning America, "I felt pressure to
come up with the funds."
So he robbed a bank! "I thought if I could pay off my debts, I would stop
gambling forever. However, if I had more money, my addiction would probably not
have let me stop," he confessed to a national TV audience.
Greg was asked , "Why didn't you ask your parents for help?" His father
answered, "We learned he had a gambling addiction the summer before, and got him
help. He went to Gamblers Anonymous. I didn't realize how firm a grip addiction
had on my son."
Within hours of the robbery, he was arrested as he arrived to play cello in an
orchestra. He served 22 months in prison, and is out now but with a ruined life.
If slots are opened in Maryland, Greg's story will be repeated by thousands of
others who will lose their jobs, homes and marriages.
Two years ago, while Greg was in prison, Congress passed the Internet Gambling
Enforcement Act to protect future Gregs. However, no regulations were issued to
implement the law, so it remains toothless in prohibiting the use of credit
cards to play internet slots.
Rep. Barney Frank is a fierce opponent of the Gambling Act. In fact last week
his committee passed a bill by a 30-19 vote that would not only undo the law
but give the Federal Government a new source of revenue! Guess what will happen
if Obama is elected with an even stronger Democratic majority in Congress? I
predict Barney's bill will undo the Bush signed law passed by a Republican
Congress and Senate, and incompetently administered.
Les Bernal, Executive Director of StopPredatoryGambling.org, told the 65 people
gathered for its annual convention, that slots have been made much more toxic.
No longer is there the "one-armed bandit," which takes time to pull, and the
wheels to spin. Now its all electronic. With the push of a button, one can play
multiple games at the same time, 600 to 1,000 in an hour vs the old 100 per
The industry calls it "playing to extinction," breaking one player after another
in short order.
"Predatory gambling" is what Bernal calls it - "using gambling to prey on human
weakness. There is a huge difference between social gambling and predatory
gambling. There are now 800,000 slot machines in America, one for every 395
Americans," he says.
"Do you know how they work? They are designed to get people to play longer,
faster, and more intensively, so they play to extinction." None tell the player
what the odds are of winning. Yet they are rigged to give the illusion of nearly
winning, often seeing 3 or 4 cherries pop up though 5 are needed for the
In Ontario, 80 machines were pulled because regulators found they were
programmed with a subliminal message, pushing people to keep gambling despite
losses. The same machines are the ones the gambling industry operates across
America, and which will be installed in Maryland, if voters approve them.
Voters are told that the 15,000 "video lottery terminals" will generate $650
million for the state to improve education. That's 6 miles of slots, if lined up
side by side. Similar issues are on the ballot in Colorado where the vote is to
keep casinos open 24 hours. Missouri is voting to shed a loss limit of $500 a
day! Maine and Ohio are voting to add casinos.
The United Methodist Book of Discipline states, "Gambling is a menace to
society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic and spiritual
life and destructive of good government."
Who is likely to win? Polls show that 49 percent favor the slots and 43 are
opposed. But the margin has narrowed from a 16 percent lead.
(Bold italics) More important, since 2004, in ten referenda in different states,
ALL were defeated.
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