Guest Columnist

The gambling industry is a predator

College basketball is broadcast on a large video screen in the show lounge at Riverside Casino & Golf Resort in Riverside, Iowa, on Wednesday, March 20, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
College basketball is broadcast on a large video screen in the show lounge at Riverside Casino & Golf Resort in Riverside, Iowa, on Wednesday, March 20, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Adam Sullivan’s “online gambling” column (“What’s Next For Iowa Gambling” Sept. 1) ignores some major concerns.

Iowans are the stakeholders here, not casino owners and the billionaire out-of-state carpetbaggers running the sportsbook and fantasy games. The state’s take of the money generated through online gambling will be a paltry 6.75 percent — among the lowest in the country.

The gambling industry is a predator, like Big Tabacco, using a business model which develops and targets a vulnerable and addicted market. There are no enormous profits without out-of-control gamblers. This industry’s goal is 24/7 real time gambling on every smartphone and video game in the country.

The strategic calculation behind slot machines and video gaming involves behavioral engineering and the neuroscience of addiction. Roughly half of Iowa’s gambling revenue come from problem or addicted gamblers. Half.

Today’s online games are designed to be addictive. The World Health Organization just labeled video gaming addiction as “internet gaming disorder,” declaring a worldwide concern.

During floor debate this spring, state Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, forever altered our glitzy perception of commercial gambling. He held up his smartphone as the new casino, comparing the gambling industry and its business model to Big Tobacco and Big Vape.

Online gambling is constructing its network nationwide — the fantasy games build the base (grooming). This market (the casino’s objective) will target young men and children as the next generation of gamblers, primed through fantasy sports and video games. They are building a market in Iowa where none existed.

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Draft Kings gloats over online sports betting: “ ... this should grow our business many times over-not double, not triple-this should turn us four or five or 10[times] the size we are now and those numbers depend on which states and how quickly these states adopt this” (Wall Street Journal, Sept. 3). Remember, Iowa gets only the 6.75 percent tax on this money, the rest of which flies out-of-state. This borders on highway robbery.

Attorney General Tom Miller fought the tobacco industry, yet remains silent. Where are the investigative reporters? The presidential candidates?

The money, lobbyists, and power of this industry simply overwhelm legislatures. The “public good” becomes thoroughly intertwined with the casinos — local economies, nonprofits, and state revenue.

Most dangerous is the gambling industry influence on state and local government. Eventually, any elected official who speaks out against the gambling powers will be labeled — as in the Ibsen play — an “enemy of the people.”

Antonia Russo lives in Solon.

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