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June 30, 1999






Gambling study calls for 'pause' in expansion
___WASHINGTON--The National Gambling Impact Study Committee has called for a "pause" in the expansion of gambling in the United States, issuing more than 70 recommendations for the consideration of state and federal government bodies.
___"The members of the commission unanimously agree that there is a need for a 'pause' in the growth of gambling," the report states.
___The commission's report also notes that some lawmakers "may wish to impose an explicit moratorium on gambling expansion" until further research can be conducted.
___"The report makes it clear that gambling is out of control," said Weston Ware, associate director of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission and vice chairman of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling. "The commission condemned just about every type of gambling currently being considered by federal or state lawmakers."
___The commission's most significant recommendation, Ware said, was for a rollback in "convenience gambling" such as eight-liner video slot machines in neighborhood stores. The commission recommended that "states should not authorize any further convenience gambling operations and should cease and roll back existing operations."
___Texas lawmakers in the last two legislative sessions failed to pass bills that would have strengthened the ability of law officers to crack down on video slot machines, commonly known as eight-liners.
___Religious leaders across the nation joined Ware in praising the commission's report, which some said uncovers a "hidden epidemic" of gambling addiction.
___"As we have seen, wherever gambling has gone, it has brought serious social implications--addiction, crime, bankrupted businesses and broken families. ... This report exposes gambling to be highly addictive," said Thom White Wolf Fassett, general secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.
___Tom Gray, executive director of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, said the report "will act like the Surgeon General's 1964 report on smoking and health--a wake-up call on the dangers of gambling.
___"This report makes it very clear that gambling is not just another form of recreation. It is a very addictive and destructive activity. ... In short, gambling is the next tobacco."
___James Dobson of Focus on the Family, a member of the gambling study commission, predicted the report "will be a watershed in the gambling debate" and will "change the way the American public thinks about the harms associated with gambling."
___In a letter to the 2.4 million constituents of Focus on the Family, Dobson called it a "credible report which I am pleased to endorse."
___"Until now, there has been no reliable body of evidence on which policymakers and citizens could make rational, informed decisions regarding gambling," he wrote. "Grassroots organizations that opposed gambling have been overrun by the money and influence of its proponents."
___But now, the "illusion of pain-free riches promoted by the gambling industry has been exposed," Dobson said. Gambling "is sown in greed and the exploitation of human weakness. It robs from the poor and exploits the most vulnerable."
___The lengthy report, which includes recommendations to prohibit betting on college athletics and increase the national minimum betting age to 21, was submitted June 18 to the White House, Congress, state governors and Indian tribes.
___Other recommendations include a moratorium on further expansion of the gambling industry, restrictions on political donations by the industry, reduction in marketing of state lotteries, a ban on Internet gambling and removal of automated teller machines from betting areas at racetracks and casinos.
___The report also recommends "that students should be warned of the dangers of gambling, beginning at the elementary level and continuing through college."
___While the report was tough on electronic convenience gambling and lotteries, it was "easy on casinos" and destination gambling because those interests were represented significantly on the commission, Ware said.
___The nine commissioners were Kay Coles James, dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University; William Bible, chairman of the Nevada State Gaming Control Board; Dobson; Terrance Lanni, chairman of the board and CEO of MGM Grand Inc.; Richard Leone, president of the Twentieth Century Fund; Robert Loescher, president and CEO of Sealaska Corp.; Leo McCarthy, former lieutenant governor of California; Paul Harold Moore, president of Singing River Radiology Group; and John Wilhelm, general secretary-treasurer for the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union.
___Based on reports by Ken Camp of Texas Baptist Communications, Religion News Service and Baptist Press

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