State casinos add to gambling addiction, says CBS “60 Minutes”

10 January 2011

The Sunday, January 9 edition of the CBS news program “Sixty Minutes” aired a segment linking the increased availability of slot machine gambling to increased gambling addiction, and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell didn’t seem a bit happy about it.

Rendell reacted explosively when interviewer Leslie Stahl pressed him on whether his state was exploiting low-income and vulnerable people by promoting casino gambling.

“You just don’t get it. You are a simpleton,” growled Rendell, his teeth clenched. Rendell insisted that slot machine gamblers would merely find other ways to gamble if they didn’t have ready access to slots.

However, compulsive gambling experts such as Drs. Robert Breen and Henry LeSeuer told Stahl that slot machines trigger a far more intense addictive effect than other forms of gambling.

Dr. Howard Shaffer, who heads up the Harvard Medical School Division on Addictions, emphasized that a small percentage of all gamblers are affected by addiction. The vast majority of players are able to enjoy gambling as entertainment without losing control over their behavior.

Two former gambling addicts told Stahl that they began to develop gambling problems when they gained greater access to slot machines.

Minnesotans are concerned about making gambling problems worse with expansion, according to MIGA Executive Director John McCarthy. “Our research shows that the biggest concern of those who oppose expansion is gambling addiction. They understand that more access to slot machines is likely to translate into more gambling addiction.”

McCarthy said that a majority of Minnesotans believe we have enough gambling already. “With the limited gambling we have now, we’ve been able to strike just the right balance. If the state goes into the slot machine business and casinos start springing up all over Minnesota, that balance will be lost forever.”