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A Losing Bet

from the magazine

A Losing Bet

Summer 1995
Politics and law

Never let it be said that New York doesn't think ahead. When the State Legislature reluctantly enacted Governor Pataki's proposal for a new form of gambling—the quick-draw video lottery—in its recent budget, it thoughtfully set aside $1.5 million for treatment of compulsive gambling.


Such treatment will undoubtedly prove necessary. The game will flash new winning numbers to video terminals in restaurants, bars, and bowling alleys throughout the state; the rapid response time and the availability of alcohol will make the game especially alluring to compulsive gamblers. "We know we will see people become pathological from this game," says Don Thoms, president of the New York Council of Problem Gambling, the trade group for those who treat gambling addiction.


So why didn't the council's members oppose the bill creating the video lottery? "We do not want to be seen as prohibitionist," says Thorns. Perhaps, but state-sponsored gambling means more compulsive gamblers and more demand for treatment—and, in this case, a juicy fivefold increase in state funding for the gambling rehabilitation providers Thorns represents.


For compulsive gamblers, quick-draw lotto will become as insidious as crack—and the poor, who are most likely to prove susceptible to its blandishment, can least afford it. The governor should have broken the state's addiction to new forms of revenue, not given it another fix.
 

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