By Bill Kearney
I read on your website that the goal of GamblingHelper.com is to inform, educate, and encourage problem gamblers to recognize their illness and arrest it, and that gambling should remain legal so the problems associated with it can be addressed openly, and that the gambling industry should be allowed to promote their business openly and people should be free to have choices. You say your primary goal is to inform, educate, and encourage problem gamblers to arrest their illness through the use of information, research, experience, support, and making fundamental changes in their character and lifestyle.
So what I have learned is that GamblingHelper.com's agenda is pretty much the same as Gamblers Anonymous, and that's a shame. Just think how much more good GamblingHelper.com could do if on your web site you informed and educated today's and future problem gamblers on how the gaming industry operates and the products they use to seduce their victims.
I'm not diminishing, your agenda, nor Gamblers Anonymous. I once was a member of GA. and met a lot of good people and I'm sure you guys at GamblingHelper.com are also good people, but now is not the time to quote, Aristotle, Buddha, Thomas Alva Edison or be anonymous. Because while you follow that agenda, guys like Donald Trump, and Steve Wynn are sitting in their plush penthouse suite with their feet up on their marble desk, smoking Havanas, drinking brandy, and laughing their butts off, thinking about this wonderful industry they're in. They put people, like you and me, on what I call the casino ladder. They bat us with COMPS [compliments] as they move them from prong to prong, until we're on empty. And what do we do when our gambling career is over? We go to meeting rooms throughout the country with other poor souls like ourselves, looking to relieve the pain, and fine a cure to stop gambling. If that's what it takes to stop you from gambling, then go for it. But to stay anonymous and not spread the word to the future generations who just might be more compulsive is not comprehensible. It's time to come out of the closet and tell not only your story, but also what this gaming industry is all about, let's not let what happen to us happen to others.
I've been working over the years with many different organizations such as the "NCALG" National Coalition against Legalized Gambling. These are good people who work very hard towards stopping the expansion of legalized casino gambling. Their approach is pretty much the way we fought in the early years of the Revolutionary War, as a "Gentleman's War." But as you know our boys went guerrilla, and it's a good thing they did, because I hate to go to court and be judged by men wearing a women's wig . . . I've been on the front lines fighting what I call the "Casino Wars" since 1986, and have been taking a beating pretty good, but I am far from conceding.
This testimony I gave at the Pennsylvania convention center on April 1st 2004 to the JOINT PUBLIC HEARING OF THE HOUSE STATE GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE AND HOUSE TOURISM AND RECREATIONAL AND DEVELOPMENT COMMITT ON GAMBLING IN PENNSYLVANIA.
First I'd like to thank Chairman Clymer and Chairman Godshall and the members of the state government and the House on tourism, for the opportunity to be here today.
There are many people in our society, especially those from the gaming industry who justify Casino and Racino [race track] gambling by calling it entertainment.
It's hard for me to believe those in the Gaming Industry are sincere, and those who patronize their facilities I assume are clueless or in denial of what really goes on in those Dens of Inequity. And I could understand Governor Rendell's and the state legislators position on legalizing casino gambling, if this was 26 years ago, and instead of it being Atlantic City, it was here in Philadelphia that was opening casinos. Back then, only the casino operators from Las Vegas knew what havoc would be bestowed on the thousands of families whose loved ones would get in bed with this industry. But this isn't 26 years ago, so it's hard to believe that those governing this state don't know how addicting this product is.
But if I'm wrong, and Governor Rendell doesn't know, then I'd like to share with him my 20 years of expertise on this subject. My credentials are that I am a veteran and a casualty of the first assault of legalized casino gambling outside of Las Vegas. My story is of Atlantic City, and it's not unique. I am one of many who fell in love with gambling and the "COMPED" treatment.
I'm not going to tell my own personal horror story, nor dazzle you with percentages, research, or bottom lines. What I am writing about, is this entertainment industry, their products, and the effect it has on those who use them, along with some ideas that could help the next generation of gamblers from ending up like myself and others.
Now just in case you have been in a coma for the last 26 years and have never been to a casino or racinos to see their products in use, here is a comparison. The slots are similar to those video games that mesmerize our children and grandchildren. The video games give no financial reward, nor is there redemption of your losses. But even with that, I am sure we can all agree that the video games are addicting. So before this new generation of gamblers who were born with a joystick in hand venture into a casino or racino how about we educate them on this so-called entertainment industry,
because if we don't, who will? Surely not the Gaming Industry, you would have a better shot of getting information out of the Pentagon or the Vatican. I haven't seen CNN, the crew from 60 minutes, 20/20, Dateline, Geraldo Rivera, and Fox's Bill O'Reilly's doing any investigative reporting on this industry, have you? Don't tell me there's nothing here to report.
If the addiction horror stories, along with white and blue-collar crimes, murder and suicides, don't warrant an investigation. Then how about looking into the phenomenon of how our society, along with an alarming amounts of government officials perceive these joints. Let's not forget the pioneers of this industry, or should I say hoodlums, shysters, con-men and gangsters. Does the name "Bugsy Siegel," ring a bell?
Today Gov. Rendell's talking slot machines, but what is he really thinking? When the Pennsylvania lottery first came about, it was a single drawing on Fridays. Today you can play lottery games every day of the week.
The governor has said if slot machines become legal the state will receive 34% of the take, close to a billion dollars in tax revenue that will go to the property owners as tax relief and there will be plenty of money left for education. Now if you do the math that means the slots would have to take in 3.1 billion. How much of that money will come from Gov. Rendell, and the state legislator's families? They want to bring in this billion dollar industry yet no one supporting legalizing slots know how they're going to operate. Are they going to run them the same way Atlantic City runs their casinos? And if the states bordering Pennsylvania like West Virginia and Delaware, who have said, that if Pennsylvania legalizes slots they will put in table games and become full-blown casinos. If that happens, the racinos and slot operators here will have to adapt in order to compete.
So now we have an idea of what can happen if slots are legalized, how do we educate our children and grandchildren before they come of age to gamble in these racinos and casinos? Will our children and grandchildren gamble responsibly? Has Gov. Rendell and those who want to legalize this product thought about that? Has the gaming industry front man and president of the American Gaming Association, Frank Fahrenkopf thought about that. Mr. Fahrenkopf insists that most Americans gamble for entertainment and gamble responsibly and believe that casino gambling is perfectly acceptable for themselves or others. Are others, our children and grandchildren?
Entertainment is what the gaming industry calls their product. When I gambled it was to win, to double my money, to make a score. When I was at the tables there were no comedians, singers or dancers entertaining, and you won't see them at the slot machines. What you will see is people investing their hard earned money.
So Mr. Governor., if you get your way and legalize casino gambling comes about, here are a few ideas that you can pass along to those who will regulate this industry.
First, how about we stop calling this product entertainment, and start calling it an investment. And those plastic reward cards that the racinos and casinos track their customers with, lets call them investment cards. And because we all know how hard the gaming industry works to avoid their customers from getting in over their heads, how about we make those players investment cards, their license to gamble. And before the racinos and casinos issue their customers this license card to gamble, how about they pull their credit reports to make sure they're not in any financial difficulties. We wouldn't want people who are in bankruptcy, foreclosure, late with their child support payments out there gambling for entertainment.
Second, "No Comps"
More people got their casino, racinos addiction from chasing the "COMPS" than from the actual gambling. From the Bus people that the casino and racinos lure in with "slots dollars" and "free buffets," and who are mostly senior citizen's, to the "High Rollers," that they chauffeur in limos, and put up in Penthouse suites. If your slot machines, table games, and spinning wheels are so good and entertaining, then there should be no need to "COMP." You take away the "COMPS," from this industry, and they stop breeding.
Third, "No Credit"
Is there any other industry you can think of that can give out loans and not charge any interest? Is it because their profit margin is so great, or is it because, in reality, what they're really giving, are casino chips, along with a very slim chance of winning. I would like to look into the casino's archives and see how many people they put into collections, because of those no interest loans.
Fourth "No Casino Chips, and no Coin-Less Slot Machines"
This may be the illusion of life, and the casinos and racinos biggest edge! Take away the casino chips, and let's see how much money will be wagered then. Let's see what happens on weekends and holidays, when they have a captive audience, and raise the minimum bets on the tables. It's a whole different ballgame when you have to put up the cash.
And if you think that the idea for the coin-less slots machines is so that the senior citizens won't have to carry all their winnings to the cashier cage, well think again. The only reason for the coin-less slots machines is to keep the overhead down and to keep the gambler at the slot machine. You just might cash out if you see your winnings.
Fifth "No 24/7"
When the casinos first opened in Atlantic City, the framers of the States Casino Control Act, believe that it was necessary to permit compulsive gamblers time to step back from the tables. So they opened their doors at 10 A.M. and closed them at 4 A.M on weekdays. and 6 A.M. on weekends and holidays. At that time they wanted to avoid, the wide-open atmosphere of Las Vegas, where continuous gambling is permitted. They said that they were worried about the potential, harmful impact on compulsive gamblers, and the possibility that Atlantic City would never become a family type resort that it's leaders and the voters envisioned in 1976.
The opposition back then, argued that 24-hour gambling had to be permitted, if the city was to become a full-fledged vacation resort, instead of the destination for Day-Trippers. Well as you know, today the casinos in Atlantic City are open 24/7. They still have the Day-Trippers and are far from being a full-fledged vacation resort. And if you want to see pathological gambling in full bloom, take a stroll through the casinos during those extra hours.
Sixth, "No free alcoholic beverages on the casino and racinos floor."
This is a no-brainer. Can you imagine how many lawsuits there would be if other financial transactions you make, like at your bank, insurance, mortgage, or stockbroker, and they served free liquor while doing business? I'd like to know how many DUI's occurred, from a night out at the casinos and racinos. And let's not forget Mr. Governor what happened to the late Leonard Tose, owner of your favorite Philadelphia team, the Eagles. The man had a drinking problem but that didn't stop the casinos from feeding him free booze while fleecing him out of his fortune, and forcing him to sell the team, which at that time was almost sold and moved to Phoenix AZ.
Seventh, "No ATM Machines"
Now, I'm quoting the president of the American Gaming Association, Frank Fahrenkopf on this one. "I read more and more about, and see on television more ... of people who have those little plastic cards, called credit cards, and can't control their spending. It's compulsive behavior. And not enough study has been done on that, quote unquote."
Well, I think Frank has something here!
But wait a minute, what if, those more and more people, that Frank says, have that, "uncontrollable compulsive behavior," go into a casino or racino, where they have those ATM machines? What will we call them?
Well before we end up with another anonymous group, just don't have them, it's that easy
Eight, "A Monthly Statement"
Out of all my ideas, this one I believe has a shot at life. And the reason I say this is because the gaming industry says that they work very hard to prevent their customers from getting in over their heads. But unfortunately, there's no way of them knowing if a customer has a gambling problem.
Even though I find that hard to believe, especially since they know the color of your eyes to your shoe size, but maybe I'm wrong, so here's my idea.
The casinos give their customers those plastic reward cards that just so happen to look similar to those little credit cards that Frank was so worried about. With the use of these cards the casino can track the time and the amount of money gambled. This information is calculated, and this is how, they determine, the value of the COMPS that will be given to their customers.
It's a very efficient tracking system. So what I am suggesting is that the casinos and racinos, mail out a monthly statement. This statement will show the amount of money and time spent gambling, and the value of the COMPS received. This way, those people who just might be compulsive, will be able to see what this so-called entertainment costs. And because, I know that the gaming industry is going to love this idea . . . how about we let the "spouses" have access to this information.
Now Mr. Governor, I know my other ideas don't have much of a chance, but this one, how can they discredit that? And if you know why they would not mail out a monthly statement, then you know what this industry is all about.
To learn more about me go on line and look up Bill Kearney on casino gambling, or go to Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com and look up my book COMPED. Contact # (215-934-7933) or (215-588-5236)