2018 | Week of March 5 | #1245
As our state’s largest city, Milwaukee has a lot of entertainment options. However, one tourist attraction surpasses them all in terms of number of people who visit each year—and that’s the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino with nearly 6.5 million people visiting in 2016. In fact, this so-called “destination,” has more people visit annually than the next 4 ranked attractions in Milwaukee combined. And those next four are the Brewers, the Milwaukee Public Market in the 3rd Ward, the Zoo and State Fair.
This information surprises me, but more significantly, it profoundly disappoints me. I don’t want Milwaukee known for a casino and gambling. Unfortunately, it’s not just Milwaukee that has that reputation; it’s our entire state.
Of course, we have casinos—lots of them. In our state only the Native American tribes can own and operate a casino. The eleven tribes in Wisconsin own and operate over 20 casinos, ranging from mammoth ones like the Potawatomi in Milwaukee to small boutique casinos that are typically part of a convenience store in rural northern areas. The net result is that no one in Wisconsin is more than a two-hour drive from a casino. We know the closer a person lives to a casino, the more likely he or she is to become a problem gambler.
Apparently over 20 casinos isn’t enough, because the tribes keep pushing for more. Right now, they have applications being considered at the federal level to put off-reservation casinos in Beloit and Shullsburg, promising the local citizens everything except the moon, in order to ensure they have local support for their idea.
If either of these proposals gets approved, then the issue comes back to Wisconsin, with Governor Walker being the one to say yes or no to the proposal. Either of these would be the first off-reservation casinos in the state, thereby throwing open the flood gate for the other tribes to apply for off-reservation operations.
Research shows where casinos are located, crime increases and local businesses suffer. We know gambling destroys individuals and families, is associated with other addictions, too often results in suicide, and much too often results in problem gamblers committing crimes to feed their habit. More casinos means more destruction.
But casinos aren’t the only form of gambling. We have the state-run, state-sanctioned lottery, with its gazillions of games and slick advertising seeking to woo people to buy a ticket and become an instant winner. Funniest thing about lotteries: in order for the state to win, the citizens must lose—and lose they do, especially those who tend to be the most frequent ticket buyers—those who can least afford to gamble.
Now the state is flirting with online gambling. Right now, under our current law, online gambling is illegal. But the Daily Fantasy Sports games, which are online gambling by another name, are alive and well—and will continue until our Attorney General decides to shut them down. Related to this form of gambling, is a New Jersey sports betting case that is currently before the US Supreme Court. Experts say depending on how this case goes, we could be looking at legalized sports betting in our state. This type of gambling would be largely online, which means the targeted audience will be teens and young adults, the very group that has the least amount of defense against developing an addiction.
This month is Problem Gambling Awareness Month. Consider these statistics from the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling: Approximately 333,000 Wisconsin residents have a gambling problem. Calls to the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling’s 24-hour Helpline have increased 281% since 1996. The average debt of callers contacting the Helpline is $38,000. Seniors and adolescents are at high risk to become addicted to gambling. Gambling related embezzlements continue to rise in Wisconsin. 65% of compulsive gamblers commit crimes to finance their gambling. Six to twenty percent of adolescents develop gambling problems.
If that data doesn’t convince you we have a gambling problem in Wisconsin, I don’t know what would. Tragically, the giant Potawatomi in downtown Milwaukee is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s not something we ought to be bragging about; it’s something we should be actually doing something about, family by family and community by community.
For Wisconsin Family Council, this is Julaine Appling reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”