In today’s CNN article “Bill would ban military slot machines,” Drew Griffin relates the story of Army Warrant Officer Aaron Walsh who “became addicted to gambling on military slot machines,” eventually resigned from the Army, and was homeless in Las Vegas for a period of time before committing suicide in 2006.
Since moving to Oklahoma over a year ago, I have been amazed and shocked by how many casinos are proliferating around our state. There are multiple sides to the legalization of gambling and casinos in Oklahoma and other places, and I am not discounting the positive impact gambling dollars have reportedly had within some Native American tribes and communities. I continue to wonder, however, why we do not have more voices opposing the spread of legalized gambling around our state. In August, I read in the magazine “Oklahoma Casinos and Entertainment” (a free publication given out at many restaurants) that we had at that time 92 casinos in Oklahoma.
The website 500 Nations has a clickable map apparently listing them all. I found the “warning” at the bottom of each individual casino webpage on the site interesting:
Warning: You must ensure you meet all age and other regulatory requirements before entering a Casino or placing a wager. There are hundreds of jurisdictions in the world with Internet access and hundreds of different games and gambling opportunities available on the Internet. It is your reponsibility to determine if it is legal for you to play any particular games or place any particular wager. Online gambling is unlawful in some countries and jurisdictions. Check your local laws and regulations prior to gambling. Skill gaming is restricted in Arizona, Delaware, Iowa, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Vermont, Connecticut, Florida, Montana and Illinois.
Somehow, I don’t think a warning like that is really going to make an impact on anyone’s choices relating to gambling and casinos. I also find the term and concept of “skill gaming” to be fairly ridiculous. I can’t find a a WikiPedia entry for the term, but I think it includes basically all Class III games defined by the US 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Would a reasonable person consider pulling the handle of a slot machine to constitute participation in a “game of skill?” I don’t think so.
To date, I have only been in one Oklahoma casino, the Cherokee Casino located in Tulsa just off I-44:
I ate dinner there in late September, and their buffet WAS impressive. My overall impression of the casino, however, was pretty negative. Although there were some designated “non-smoking” rooms, most of the people there seemed to be retirees who were smoking as many cigarettes as they could while they poured their money down fancy toilet bowls with flashing lights and engaging sound effects. A pretty sad scene overall.
Of course I have many irons in the fire at this point, so making a documentary film is not high on my priority list, but at some point I would love to make a documentary film on the casino industry in Oklahoma. Again, I recognize there are multiple sides to this story– And there ARE some benefits from casinos in terms of needed income which many tribes have likely never had, in this quantity, since their lands were stolen, large percentages of their populations were killed, and they were forced to move to Indian Territory prior to 1907. Those benefits aside, however, I think there are MANY reasons why we should be concerned as citizens of Oklahoma about the proliferation of casinos and gambling in our state. Gambling IS addictive for some people. I know people back in Lubbock with some SERIOUS gambling addictions, and in at least one case gambling has financially destroyed the finances of one family I know. If there are organizations inside or outside Oklahoma counting these costs as the numbers of casinos in our state approaches one hundred, I’d like to know who they are and how they are striving to get their message “out” to our legislators and general body politic.
Another aspect to legalized gambling that I’d like to create a documentary film about regards our state lottery. Of course, like many other states, our lottery was passed by voters and legislators because it would be “good for our kids” and ostensibly bring more dollars into our state coffers for public education. Sadly, that justification seems at this point to have been a misleading lie. Money brought into the state revenue stream by the lottery is, BY LAW, supposed to SUPPLEMENT rather than SUPPLANT funds already in place supporting education. Yet currently, based on what I know, it sounds like the number of real dollars being spent by our legislature on education have DECREASED despite a phenomenally successful state lottery program, as well as a multitude of legalized Indian casinos which DO contribute a portion of their earnings as state taxes.
So what’s up with this situation?
In my view, we have too few voices pointing out the downsides of gambling, and NO ONE that I’ve read or seen in the mainstream media addressing this issue of state lottery and casino dollars ILLEGALLY SUPPLANTING rather than SUPPLEMENTING state expenditures for education.
I’m glad Tennessee US representative Lincoln Davis is sponsoring legislation to “eliminate military slot machines overseas.” Let’s hope it doesn’t take a suicide in Oklahoma, by someone in the military or outside the military, to get the attention of our state lawmakers and our citizen advocacy groups to take a look at what IS and IS NOT happening as a result of legalized gambling in Oklahoma. Problem gambling is a fact and is well documented, I’m sure it’s on the rise in Oklahoma. Funds for public education clearly are NOT, and based on the quantity of gambling dollars flowing into state coffers, they should be exploding. We need the light of public scrutiny to clear up what seems to be a VERY blurry situation at best.
Remember to follow Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also "like" Wesley's Facebook pages for "Speed of Creativity Learning" and his eBook, "Playing with Media." Don't miss Wesley's latest technology integration project, "Mapping Media to the Common Core / Curriculum."
On this day..
- Transfer Saved Minecraft Worlds to Another Computer on Mac OS X 10.7 Lion - 2011
- Tumblr for my 365 Photo Project in 2011 - 2010
- Mark Zuckerburg: Time's Person of the Year - 2010
- US Army Deploying iPhones - 2010
- A focus on high test scores is all you need - 2009
- Wrestling with website registration limits - 2007
- More on Bloom's and student creativity - 2006
- Converting cassette tape recording to MP3 - 2004