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The Truth About Compulsive Gambling

Studies have shown between eight to ten million people in the United States are compulsive gamblers.

Claims have been made that legalized gambling particularly victimizes women, youth, and minorities. While over 90 percent of the members of Gamblers Anonymous are men forty years of age or older, a New York State study found that 36 percent of problem gamblers are women, 32 percent are non-White and one-third are under 30 years of age.

As with the need for regulations in the casino industry, even if all regulations are implemented, the locality must still consider the social problems that have accompanied gambling in cities like Las Vegas and Atlantic city, as well as small towns like Deadwood, South Dakota,.

Accepting the fact that gambling brings some social troubles into an area, proactive measures should be taken to minimize these problems.

Deadwood, South Dakota suffered some of the effects mentioned above after gambling was legalized in 1990. Gambling brought more money into the town of Deadwood, but in other ways, it has changed the lives of these small town residents forever.

The population of Deadwood plummeted from 1960 to 1980. Because of this, the tax base declined and various city services, including highway maintenance, deteriorated. Summer tourists on their way to Mount Rushmore simply didn't spend enough money in Deadwood to compensate for the decreasing tax base.

Deadwood was listed as one of America's eleven most endangered historic places in 1991. many small businesses were sold to real estate developers, causing the community to go without services.

More specifically, a drug store, a couple of hardware stores, and a department store were among those that became casinos and souvenir shops.

Arrests increased 250 percent, reports of child abuse and neglect increased, and a local chapter of Gamblers Anonymous was founded.

Many families chose to move away rather than subject their children to the many changes occurring in Deadwood. Parents were particularly disturbed by the fact that a drugstore 100 feet from the town's middle and elementary schools was converted into a casino.

Parents worried about their children witnessing gambling first hand, but they were also concerned that winners, in their elation and losers in their despair, may not be conscious of the children's safety when entering or leaving the casino.

The debt and addiction that gambling has brought to the area are also a concern.

Atlantic City, New Jersey, has also experienced social problems related to gambling. The seaside report is visited by approximately 33 million people annually.

The local population has declined by 20 percent, and residents continue to migrate to the suburbs as a result of gambling.

Atlantic City has 7,472 casino hotel rooms but its housing stock is down by at least 15 percent. There are roughly 18,100 slot machines in the city, but one is hard pressed to locate a car wash or movie theater, and there is only one grocery store.

The police department's budget has more than tripled at $24 million, but Atlantic City's crime rate is the highest in the state.

The casinos have created 41,000 new jobs; however, the welfare rolls have also increased and the number of overnight guests at the rescue mission has risen from an average of 25 in 1976, to around 220 today.

The revenues from the casinos do assist the local taxpayer by contributing to the funding of public education.

Some people contend that gambling contributes to broken homes, depression, and worse, suicide, as well as prostitution, drunkenness and organized crime. Americans placed legal bets worth more than $286 billion in 1990, which was about 5 percent of the GNP.

This is well over the $213 billion that was spent on elementary and secondary education.