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Despite commission’s report, gambling continues to grow in America

December 28, 2021   |   by Crouse Linwood

WASHINGTON (AP) — A national commission’s call in 1999 for a pause in the expansion of legalized gambling has done little to stop the spread of casinos, lotteries and slot machines.

Efforts in Congress to ban betting on college sports, outlaw wagering via the Internet and impose a minimum gambling age of 21 have stumbled, despite endorsements by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission.

Some new federally funded studies are under way, spurred by the commission’s call for greater research into compulsive gambling. But the Department of Health and Human Services has resisted the commission’s request to add gambling questions to an annual survey on drug use.

Gambling opponents have won some victories at the state level, but legalized betting continues to grow nationwide. Americans wagered $61.6 billion in 2000, up 5.7 percent from 1999, according to Christiansen Capital Advisors, which studies the industry. That does not include Americans’ hefty share of the $2.2 billion betting industry over the Internet Togel Hongkong .

South Carolina will soon become the 38th state with a lottery. Michigan last year became the 11th state with commercial casinos. And 221 Indian tribes have compacts with states to run casinos, up from 157 in 1998.

The American Gaming Association, which represents commercial casinos, boasted recently that the casino industry “has become part of the fabric of American society.”

William Thompson, a professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, said gambling has spread because state governments enjoy a share of the proceeds.

“They think it’s free money,” Thompson said.

If the commission’s report has failed to slow the growth of gambling, however, the marketplace may succeed. Some analysts say gambling is reaching a saturation point.

“Demand for gambling products and services are approaching their natural limits,” Christiansen Capital Advisors recently reported.

Created by Congress in 1996 to study “the social and economic impacts of gambling,” the commission held 250 hours of hearings around the country. Its report, issued in June 1999 and touted as the most comprehensive look at gambling nationwide, included 76 recommendations to Congress, states, tribal governments and the gambling industry.

In urging “a pause,” the commission wrote that “the country has gone very far, very fast” in legalizing gambling. It suggested governments at all levels take time to review the impact.

The commission focused its most pointed criticisms at state lotteries and “convenience gambling,” such as video poker machines in stores and restaurants. It said those forms can encourage gambling by the poor and by youths.

George Anderson, past president of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, said the report was unfair to lotteries and did not sway those who run them.

“State legislators and governors are more than capable of deciding what is best for their state,” he said.

Timothy Kelly, executive director of the commission, acknowledged the commission’s report has not changed the course of gambling nationally. But he said it has made a difference in certain places.

“State by state by state, this report has given tremendous ammunition to the antigambling movement,” he said.

Kelly, a research fellow at George Mason University in Virginia, said successful efforts to block a state lottery in Alabama and to outlaw video gambling machines in South Carolina made use of the commission’s findings.

In other states, the report has failed to sway the gambling debate.

Legislators working on South Carolina’s lottery considered and rejected several restrictions consistent with commission recommendations — a minimum age of 21, a ban on sales in bars, and restrictions on advertising.

South Dakota voters last year rejected a proposal to repeal the state’s video lottery.

West Virginia is moving ahead with its plan to legalize 9,000 video gambling machines, even though Kelly testified in the Legislature that they are the “worst form of gambling” — addictive and widely available.

The nine gambling commission members agreed more needs to be learned about compulsive gambling, and that more resources should be devoted to treating it.

In response, the National Institutes of Health encouraged research in fields suggested by the commission, including youth gambling and compulsive gambling.

The Department of Health and Human Services agreed to add questions about gambling to two surveys of health-care providers. But it has thus far declined to add such questions to its National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.

In a letter explaining his decision, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said the annual household survey is already lengthy. He said his department will evaluate the results of surveys of health-care providers before considering whether to add gambling questions to the household survey