Here's a quick quiz: What newspaper relies on the "facts" about the gambling industry according to anti-gambling Rep. Frank Wolf and fails to check them for accuracy? If you guessed The Washington Post ["Hooking the U.S. on Gambling," editorial, June 23], you would be correct. Rep. Wolf's latest allegations were riddled with factual errors; unfortunately, The Post repeated them.
After spending two years and $5 million of taxpayer money studying the impact of gambling in the United States, the gambling commission reached conclusions in its final report that fly in the face of The Post's editorial and Rep. Wolf's alleged "facts."
Here are just a few examples of the commission's conclusions, in its own words:
"It is clear that the American people want legalized gambling, and it has already sunk deep economic roots in many communities."
"Once exotic, gambling has quickly taken its place in mainstream culture."
"The economic benefits of casino gambling have been especially powerful in economically depressed communities where opportunities for economic development are scarce. State, local, and tribal government officials from other communities with casino gambling testified with near unanimity to the positive economic impact of gambling."
"Today, the vast majority of Americans either gamble recreationally and experience no measurable side effects related to their gambling, or they choose not to gamble at all."
Many of the myths and superstitions about the legalized gambling industry have finally been put to rest. The commission debunked allegations about organized crime involvement and links to bankruptcy, crime or child abuse. The report also included emphatic positive statements about the benefits of "destination-type resorts," such as good jobs, economic development and capital investment in the communities where we do business.
It also indicated that the number of pathological gamblers is small (0.6 to 1.5 percent of the U.S. adult population) and that the extent of social costs is not close to the exaggerated claims of industry opponents. The small percentage of the population that cannot gamble responsibly deserves our attention and help. As the commission acknowledged in its report, the commercial casino industry is doing more than any other segment of the industry to deal with pathological gambling. We intend to continue our efforts to help raise awareness of this problem and fund research for education, prevention and treatment.
The report found that while the entire gambling industry -- commercial casinos, Native American casinos, lotteries, parimutuels and charitable gambling -- did have more than $50 billion in gross revenues last year, that is hardly the equivalent of profits, as The Post and Rep. Wolf state. That amount does not reflect the taxes paid (more than $18 billion annually), salaries paid (more than $21 billion annually) or any other expenses. And contrary to what Wolf says, Americans did not spend $600 billion on gambling; they wagered an estimated $600 billion. There is a big difference. Of the $600 billion wagered, Americans won back $550 billion.
The commission's report did not call for a blanket moratorium on gambling expansion but instead stated that communities considering gambling should make sure they have all the facts, pro and con, before making a decision. If they don't, the report said, some communities might want to consider a pause or a temporary moratorium until they have gathered the necessary information. While we believe that most states and localities considering gambling already conduct thorough assessments, we are fully supportive of a recommendation encouraging that.
Our view, and that shared by the commission, is that gambling, except Native American and Internet gambling, is a states' rights issue under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The commission did not recommend eliminating the gambling loss tax deduction or establishing any new federal taxes on gambling revenues for any purposes. The Post's calls for federal action in these areas contradict the commission's finding that state governments are best equipped to regulate and handle gambling issues.
The commission found that the American people want legalized gambling. Public opinion polls consistently show that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe gambling is acceptable for themselves or others. Like it or not, the commission report says, legalized gambling has become part of the mainstream culture in America.
The writer is president and CEO of the American Gaming Association.