Two years ago I devoted this column to the problems of casino
gambling. Before that column was published, and since, I have spoken on
television, radio, and at local meetings about casino gambling. Back in
the 1970s, I was involved at the State level in discussions on the same
I have highlighted the dire consequences of casino gambling
in many parts of our country: dramatic rises in street crime,
prostitution, rapes, robberies, murder, car thefts. The specter of
organized crime lurks in the shadows.
We have been reading the
studies: 5 to 8 percent of people who play games of chance become
compulsive gamblers, with another 15 to 20 percent gambling beyond a
normal degree. More than half of compulsive gamblers rely on illegal
means to support their habit.
We can affirm now with even stronger
conviction that casino gambling is a pernicious cancer. Once a
community contracts it, or makes a compact with it, it grows, and grows,
and grows. And the pathology of addiction grows with it. Look around
us: lotteries multiplying across the state, video lottery terminals
(slot machines) metastasizing around us, one casino site established and
threatening to be cloned into two others in the near future.
1995 survey by the Gaming Research Group found that United States adults
who have a casino in or near their communities are more than twice as
likely to gamble at a casino as are those who live at least 100 miles
The Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls has been
operating now for seven months. Already we hear that heavy percentages
of its patrons are coming from our local area. Now people speak of a
casino in Cheektowaga or Buffalo! In Western New York we like to talk
about how many places we can reach in 15 minutes! Why does a gambling
casino have to be one of them?
Casinos are predatory. They prey on
the poor, the elderly, the young, and on people of all ages who are
vulnerable to addictive behavior. Many have called casinos a special tax
on the poor. Their claims have merit when statistics consistently show
that the poor spend a higher percentage of their income on gambling than
any other economic group.
For many years we have been reading the
stories of older people losing their retirement nest eggs and their
homes through casino gambling. We don't have to go to the media for
those accounts now. We know the victims of that terrible destruction in
our own communities and neighborhoods. What we may not fully appreciate
is the quiet horror these people face every day. Families break down,
jobs are lost, businesses go bankrupt. Temptation grows stronger for
corruption to eat away at government. The pathology spreads.
all know the need for economic development in Western New York. We are
only too aware of the need for better paying jobs. Western New York has
been built over the generations by hard work, a renowned work ethic, and
a spirit of generous self-sacrifice. Quick fixes, easy solutions, and
shortcuts rarely work.
Why have not the customary legislative
procedures been followed in regard to casino gambling in New York State?
To legalize casino gambling in New York State as such requires the vote
of two successive State legislatures and a referendum across the State.
Polls show that people are more than apprehensive regarding the
consequences of legalized casino gambling.
The strategy has been
to circumvent these requests. The plan has been to enter into compacts
with Indian natives to put casinos on their lands or on properties which
can be turned over to them. Do the people of Erie County really want a
casino in the county?
It is a matter of spirit. Civilization
enjoys its finest hours defending, nurturing, and supporting the weakest
and most vulnerable among us, not preying on them.
Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell
Bishop of Buffalo
July 25, 2003