Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling’s brochure for Problem Gambling Awareness Month begins this way:
“Milwaukee woman embezzled over a million dollars to feed gambling addiction.
“Former Dells Bookkeeper tells court $350K embezzlement supported gambling addiction.
“Gambling addiction blamed in Thrivent theft in Fox Valley.
“Falls woman gets 15 months for embezzling to cover gambling debts.”
From there the numbers supplied by the Council are stunning. In 2021, the most recent year for which we have statistics, approximately 333,000 Wisconsin citizens, or about 7 percent of our total population, have a gambling problem. Calls to the Council’s 24-hour Helpline have increased 389% since 1996, with 22,201 calls in 2021. The average debt of callers contacting the Helpline is $58,094. 65% of compulsive gamblers commit crimes to finance their gambling. Six to twenty percent of adolescents develop gambling problems.
None of this is good news—but it is significant because Wisconsin is on the cusp of bringing in two new casinos—one in Beloit and possibly one in Kenosha. The Beloit casino will be the first off-reservation casino in our state, but I will guarantee you it won’t be the last because you can’t tell one tribe they can have a casino that isn’t on tribal land, and then tell the other 10 tribes they can’t have the same thing. Governor Evers a couple of years ago gave the go-ahead on the Beloit casino.
The Kenosha casino was supposedly dead a number of years ago after Governor Walker denied it, which was his right to do. But apparently casinos can rise from the dead, because the Kenosha casino through some very interesting maneuvers and machinations is doing just that. It’s far from a done deal, but it is moving through the process.
Casinos are not good for our state. There’s no other way to say it. When casinos come into communities, crime goes up, addictions to not just gambling, but to drugs and alcohol, increase; local businesses are run out of business, family break-down increases, and most often the promises made to the local community by the tribe never come fully to fruition. There’s no win-win at all. There’s a loser and a winner when it comes a new casino. The casino owners/operators win; the community loses.
Of course, the reason our state keeps pursuing these casino agreements is state government receives a percentage of the profits the casinos earn. Elected officials see that as “free money.” Unfortunately, it’s not free; it comes from citizens who have succumbed to the siren song of gambling and have lost money.
Studies have frequently shown that problem gambling increases in proximity to a casino. In other words, the closer one lives to a casino, the greater the likelihood of developing a gambling problem. Two new casinos will make the numbers I mentioned earlier even worse.
Organizationally, Wisconsin Family Council opposes the expansion of gambling because of gambling’s impact on families. Citing the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling again, problem gambling negatively affects families by creating financial crises, manipulation for loans, lying, mental health issues, physical health issues, self-esteem problems, role imbalance such as children taking care of parents, and verbal and physical abuse.
What gets lost when a family member has a gambling problem is trust, respect, employment, financial security, and reputation, all of which destroys marriages and families.
Strong families are the foundation of our state. Policies and decisions that weaken this institution eventually weaken our state. While people don’t like to admit it, our state is only as strong as its families. Families suffering from problem gambling are fragile at best, and too often become so frail that they disintegrate. The ramifications of this disintegration go far beyond that individual family.
Wisconsin already has a gambling problem. We should not be doing anything that will make problem worse. For sure we don’t need any more casinos. Gambling is pretty much a zero-sum enterprise—the house wins; the gambler loses. That’s how it is designed to be. No level of government should be promoting anything that harms families and that requires its citizens to lose in order for the state to win.
This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
We Advocate, Educate, And Network To Preserve Wisconsin Family Values!