- Category: Other Items
Meet Your New Neighbor
How slot machines are secretly designed to seduce and destroy you, and how the government is in on it.
by Isaiah Thompson
Published: Jan 7, 2009
Pennsylvania became a major gambling state literally overnight. Act 71, the law which legalized slot casinos here, was passed in the middle of the night on July 4, 2004, without public input, public hearings or — it is increasingly clear — any meaningful research by the state.
Not that there isn't any out there. Pennsylvania's decision flew in the face of, among other things, the recommendations of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, which reported on gambling to Congress in 1999, concluding that the problems gambling caused were so serious that they warranted a nationwide moratorium.
Pennsylvania legislators, though, apparently felt they could overcome these challenges. To that end, Act 71 created the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) — a kind of mini-government, really, but funded entirely by gaming revenues — charged with two missions: To "protect the interest of the public by ensuring the integrity of legalized gaming," and to "[fulfill] the objectives of limited gaming in the Commonwealth to deliver a significant source of revenue."
But there is substantial evidence that those two missions — protecting the public and facilitating legalized gaming — are inherently at odds.
At the crux of this conflict is the very gambling institution the state has billed as least harmful: slots.
Also known as "convenience casinos," slots-only (or slots-mostly) gambling parlors located in highly populated areas are precisely the model that Foxwoods and SugarHouse casinos hope to replicate here in Philadelphia. If they do, we will be the largest city in the United States to host them.
In pushing for casinos, Gov. Ed Rendell and others have portrayed slots as a safe medium, a cautious stepping stone to a possible future expansion of gambling to table games, as if roulette or craps posed the greater threat to the safety and sanctity of public life in Pennsylvania.
The opposite is true.