Director, Commonwealth Policy Center

Only a small minority of our population is aware that casino expansion is a threat to the well-being of families and children.  If the relationship is not direct and obvious many people refuse to believe there is a connection between gambling problems and children.  The impact of the children that suffocate in overheated cars, neglected by gambling parents fade, because it only happens every few months.

In 2013 Americans put at risk over $1,200,000,000,000 ($1.2 trillion) dollars and lost approximately $119,000,000,000 ($119 billion) in legal gambling. The amount of illegal gambling is unknown, although sports betting is believed to the largest amount.  The legal gambling loss alone is $375 for every man, woman and child in this nation.    For a family of four the gambling bill is a minimum of $1500.  That is approximately 3% of the average household income in America at the present time.  That is recreational until you realize that the spending is not uniformly distributed.

A surprising amount of that sum is spent by the addicted gamblers.  Six million of the addicted and six million more problem gamblers spend approximately half the money lost.  This is at least $9900 per year.  For the addicted and problem gamblers this kind of family expenditure is not pocket money.  In the family budget only housing, transportation and food exceed the gambling expenditure.  In many homes where an amount around $9900 is spent, gambling may be the largest single expenditure.  Only foolishly can we hide from the fact that children are more poorly fed and clothed than they were before the advent of massive legal gambling.

Then there is the dark side of gambling and family life.  Studies have shown for half a century that gambling addiction causes isolation from family members.  Gambling parents at best neglect the well-being of their children.  As gambling debt creates more pressure, parents tend to abuse their children.  Social welfare agencies simply do not collect information about gambling in homes where abuse takes place, but they should.  The results would be shocking.  The evidence we have of this connection is that as new casinos are introduced into communities, child abuse cases invariably increase.

Children are hungry and ill-clothed at a rate worse than any time since the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Between 10 and 20% of our children are underfed (17% in  Kentucky) at a time when more people are employed than ever before, when more families have two incomes than ever before.  The bottom fourth (some say 40%) of our nation is in trouble, and part of that trouble is caused by gambling.  Why would we want to increase the problem with expanded gambling.