Gambling: A Bad Bet for Families

Gambling: A Bad Bet for Families

Gambling can rapidly become a problem for families

2024 | Week of March 11 | Radio Transcript #1557

I’m frequently asked why we as an organization take the position that gambling is not “family friendly.”  This comes most often from people who believe gambling is largely just innocent, victimless entertainment.

Wisconsin Family Council’s primary mission is to strengthen, preserve, and promote God’s plan for marriage and family.  When we see situations that have proven track records of hurting families and destroying marriages, we believe it is important that we sound an alarm.  Gambling definitely fits that description.

Gambling has evolved in Wisconsin and with its evolution and growth have increased problems.  In 1993, coinciding with the expansion of gambling in the state, in particular casinos, the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling was formed and funded. Now, funds for this organization come exclusively from Indian casino profits.

I find that quite ironic.  As the state agrees to expand gambling, they know they are asking for trouble; so, they create an organization specifically to help problem gamblers and appropriate money.  Remember that the state gets money from the casinos by virtue of the compacts we have entered into with the tribes.  As the casinos increase their take, the state gets more money for its budget.

Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling annually releases statistics from its work.  All of the numbers for 2023 are not yet available, but here are some from 2022, from the Council’s annual report, available on their web site, wi-problemgamblers.org.  The Council estimates that over 333,000 Wisconsin residents have a gambling problem, which is defined as affecting their finances, their families, and their employment.  This number is conservative but still represents almost 6% of Wisconsin’s total population and over 7% of our over-18 population.

Calls to the Council’s 24-hour Helpline have increased 343% since 1996, the first year the line was implemented.  In 2022, the Helpline received 15,192 calls, down considerably from 22,201 calls in 2021. The Council’s website had nearly 11,000 hits in 2022. According to the 2022 report, the average debt of callers contacting the Helpline was over $45,000.

Experts seem to agree that in this rough economy, more people are trying to get out of economic difficulties by gambling and instead of improving their situation, they are making it significantly worse.

Some more statistics:  In 2022 in Wisconsin, the average age of female gamblers calling the Helpline was 53, while male caller’s average age was 38.  According to the Council, seniors and adolescents are at high risk of becoming addicted to gambling, and gambling related embezzlements continue to rise in Wisconsin.   65% of compulsive gamblers commit crimes to finance their gambling, 6 to 20% of adolescents develop gambling problems, suicide rates are 20 times higher among pathological gamblers compared to non-gamblers, and people who have other addictions are at a higher risk of becoming addicted to gambling.

None of the statistics I have just cited are good for families.  Studies continue to show that gambling increases the likelihood of family breakdown through divorce, increases the likelihood of child abuse and neglect as well as domestic violence.  Talk about high-stakes.   Families are the ones who end up being the biggest losers, which becomes a significant loss for everyone since fragmented families cost taxpayers millions of dollars every year, not to mention the long-term non-financial costs communities endure.

Problem gambling is growing in Wisconsin.  The Internet is becoming more and more of a means for people to gamble—in private, without leaving their homes. Casinos, thanks to former Governor Jim Doyle, have increased their games and their hours.  Governor Evers has approved the first off-reservation casino, which is scheduled for Beloit, and Kenosha authorities earlier this month approved an off-reservation casino there.  Governor Evers also unilaterally approved sports betting here a couple of years ago when he allowed for such gambling on casino property.

Here's the stark reality: those who run gambling enterprises are in it for one reason—to make money, lots of money.  The odds are stacked against those who play the games—always. The “house” wants people to lose. The “house” needs people to lose in order to make money. What gamblers don’t understand is that they stand to lose a lot more than money when they play this very high-stakes game.  And that’s why Wisconsin Family Council believes gambling is a very bad bet for families.

This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you that God, through the Prophet Hosea, said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

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