BUSINESS

Are anti-gambling groups in the US powerless?

TAGs: Sacramento, tribes

Sacramento CA

Sacramento, CA

Industry figures and “gambling experts” in Sacramento, California, have emphasised how the days of anti-gambling groups being able to stop gambling growth outright in a state are long gone.

A report by the Press Enterprise, a number of opinionated individuals are quoted in regards to legalising online gambling.

Rev. James Butler, executive director of the California Coalition Against Gambling Expansion is one of them. As what they call “leading critic of the idea of opening cyberspace to legal gambling”, he states in the report that “compulsive gambling already ruins the lives of thousands” and “letting people bet without ever leaving the house would make the problem worse”.

However, the report highlights that internet gambling isn’t based on what people like Butler have to say. Instead, it has said that legalising some form of Internet gambling in California depends on “prominent gaming tribes, the horse-racing industry, key lawmakers and other moneyed interests being able to come to terms”.

The report also stresses how the focus on gambling in the state of California seems to be on how — not if — the government should allow online gambling and derive revenue from it.

Views from Professor I. Nelson Rose, an expert in gambling law who has studied the success of anti-gambling activists and voter attitudes around the country are recorded. He said: “There is still an organised opposition but it gets overshadowed by businesses competing for the dollar. The reason we can even talk about Internet gambling is that there is so much legal gambling in the state and country already.”

Former Inland lawmaker Robert Presley, who signed the ballot argument against the lottery initiative is noted as saying public sentiment toward gambling has changed from a generation ago, when it was confined to horse tracks and card rooms. “I think people have become more tolerant of gambling over the years,” he said.

This is further supported by the fact a September Field Poll found that 53% of California voters support legalising online poker to make money for the state.

Other extracts of the article also reference supporters of legalising online gambling as saying “people already bet billions on unregulated sites that are based in other countries – the government loses out on that revenue.”

Of course, there’s always one that has to make reference to “problem gamblers” isn’t there. The author of a legalisation bill, State Sen. Rod Wright, acknowledges in the report that licensing online gambling “could increase the number of problem gamblers.” Nevertheless, at a hearing in March he said:

“But government cannot protect people from every bad decision. I’ll bet that there is a percentage of people who get killed in traffic accidents who were drinking beer or another alcohol. I’m certain that I could look at the number of obese kids and trace it back to McDonald’s.

“I mean, at some point, I’m not sure where we go with our ability to inhibit behaviour that people say that they enjoy.”

So far, two bills have been introduced to license online gambling in California. Wright’s measure would apparently license poker as well as other games.

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