April 10 — 9:03 am, 2009

Casinos are an education issue — and not because of funding

nocasino Photo: Dr. Joan May T. Cordova from www.aaunited.org

I am ashamed to admit I did not join the fight against casinos until a location on the front steps of Chinatown was proposed. Either location for Foxwoods at this point threatens the community – the Gallery site is 50 feet from the nearest resident, the Strawbridge’s site is less than 200 feet from one of our daycare centers. But now that I’ve learned more, my passion against the casino plan is fueled by much more than the threat to my community.

Those of us involved with education need to take note, especially because education funding is being touted as one of the beneficiaries of the current administration’s drive to force this down our throats.

 Why should we as people who care about kids and schools care about casinos? In 1976, there were only two states in the country that allowed gambling – Nevada and New Jersey. Now, there are only two states that don’t. It is no coincidence that gambling addiction among youth in particular has grown exponentially. Consider this article from of all places, USA today:

Among the article’s highlights, or lowlights:

A recent statewide study in Indiana found that more than 35% of sixth-graders and 55% of 12th-graders had done some type of gambling in the past year.

….Prevention specialists in Oregon are trying to mesh a gambling-prevention program into programs for alcohol and drug abuse, says Julie Hynes of the Lane County Health and Human Services Department. “We’ve been wanting to do this for a while, as we’ve seen access to gambling grow,” Hynes says.

PBS’ Frontline also recognized that the “normalization” of gambling has led to increased pathological addiction – especially among youth.

An excerpt:

Experts on pathological gambling have shown that the prevalence of this disorder is linked closely to the accessibility and acceptability of gambling in society.…As more people try gambling in its various forms, however, more of those prone to the illness are exposed. So, the more legalized gambling a state makes available, the more pathological behavior is triggered. Fast-paced gambling, which maximizes the number of wagering opportunities (like casinos and video gambling machines), also maximizes gambling addiction….In Iowa, the legalization of casinos more than tripled the addiction dilemma.

 And we should not be so naïve as to think the casinos care about our youth and have adequate protections in place. Frontline reports:

Despite laws in Atlantic City restricting casino gambling to people 21 or older, a survey of teenagers at Atlantic City High School revealed that not only had 64% gambled in a local casino, but 40% had done so before the age of 14.

As I write this, a courageous band of fighters, including tireless fellow blogger Helen Gym, are riding a bus to Harrisburg to try and voice their concerns. They know what they are up against. The governor, the mayor, city council, the state legislature, and a well-moneyed, well-connected, and notoriously corrupt industry. (Ummm…I know it’s confusing, but the corrupt industry I’m referring to is the casino lobby, not the legislature…)

I’m committed to drawing a line in the sand not only for my community, but for the children and families I serve. Those of us in education need to speak up loudly, because we’re being asked to be grateful for this blood money. For more on this subject, check out Helen’s other blog at Young Philly Politics.


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