In the sleepy suburbs across the United States, slot machines are beginning to make an appearance. Slot machines are all around, fast transforming these areas into southern Nevada look-a-likes. You will see them as you travel home, or when you visit your dad’s favorite watering hole. Four video slots in the back corner of your favorite pub.
While these represent only a small fraction of the 800,000 slot machines that are currently spread out around the country, their presence is disturbing to some.
The glowing slot machines are attracting people from the neighborhood who rarely gambled before[ slots were legalized in bars by the government.
The wide-eyed players are zoned out in a boozy buzz, tapping the spin button mindlessly as they await a big win.
In a single 4-hour catch up session with Pops, patrons will easily run their winnings past $100. However, most will lose, as they slip in a $20 bill, then another, and another, before finally calling it quits.
Guys in their twenties will use their granddads ATM card to withdraw cash to play. And while they play, their granddad sits at the bar alone, sipping his beer.
It should therefore not come as a surprise that governments have latched on like leeches to legalized gambling, seeing as it draws in a lot of money.
In the 1980’s, legalized gambling drew approximately $10 billion nationwide per year. Today it draws $119 billion each year. However, experts warn that the proliferation of slot machines into other areas of the country could create a devastating problem to society in a very short time, especially with regards to problem gambling.
In fact, fixed-odds betting terminals such as slots are today referred to as the “crack cocaine” of gambling due to their highly addictive nature.
New problem gamblers are being created due to the fact that local governments have bought them in — without factoring in the heavy costs that are associated with the spread of legalized gambling. This is viewed by many observers as a problematic situation that is a cause for real concern.
Problem gamblers once had to save up for cash to travel to Vegas, or a riverboat or an Indian casino to gamble.
The lack of cash to travel meant they did not gamble. But today, gambling is as easy as walking into the local bar. This comes with consequences that most cities may not be ready to deal with.
Gambling proponents are on the other hand calling for the “nanny” state to take a step back. They point out the fact that the gambling industry already faces tight regulations, with betting shops requiring a license to operate from the Gambling Commission.
Furthermore, new shops will now require permission for a change of use. That said, it is important to keep in mind that Las Vegas is home to more than 100,000 problem gamblers, while 100 Gamblers Anonymous chapters meet each week. And Vegas is the gold standard when it comes to gambling and addiction. Are other cities ready for this?