As the table games bill moves through the legislature, many words have been used to disguise what it will really do to our state. The front-runners of the bill are slick �suits� like Mountaineer Park President and CEO Ted Arnault and John Cavacini, president of the West Virginia Racing Association, who assure the legislature that this is in their best interests.
They paint a rosy picture and speak of all the revenue gained by additional gambling and of all sorts of visitors coming to our state and enjoying themselves. The legislature would be insane to not vote for such wonderful things as more tax dollars and happy people if it were not for West Virginia�s most notorious lottery winner: Jack Whittaker.
Instead of listening to Arnault and Cavacini swindle, the committees should invite Jack Whittaker to speak. He will tell you what gambling has done to him and his family; of a drug overdose that killed his spoiled granddaughter, how his wife left him, of his many arrests, and how he lost every last dollar. If Jack Whittaker were to stand at the committee podium he would reiterate what he has already publicly said: he regrets ever winning.
Gambling is a great thing if you are Ted Arnault and smart enough to be the swindler and not the swindlee. But for every Arnault ready to take a person�s money, there are tens of thousands ready to give it to him.
I rarely agree with Dennis Sparks, the President of the West Virginia Council of Churches, but he was right when he said the castaways from gambling do not go to the state when they have spent everything they have. They knock on the doors of churches begging to have their electric or gas bill paid. The church acutely sees the damage of gambling.
Louisiana, my birth state, has had gambling for many years: today slot machines lurk in every nook and cranny. As a young man I remember eating at the local pizzeria in the little town of Clinton, watching an obviously poor women pull in with her junker car, set her daughter on a stool in the restaurant and walk into the gambling parlor. After feeding several hundred dollars through the machine, she collected her daughter and left with less money than she had before.
Professors John Barron of Purdue University, Michael Staten of Georgetown University, and Stephanie M. Wilshusen of Georgetown wrote, �The rapid growth in casino gambling outlets during the 1990s simultaneous with the rise in personal bankruptcies prompted a credit industry consulting firm, SMR Research (1997), to declare gambling as the �single fastest-growing driver of bankruptcy.� SMR compared the aggregated personal bankruptcy filing rate of the 298 counties identified as having at least one major legal gambling facility (i.e., a casino: Indian, land-based, or boat; or pari-mutuel outlet) with the aggregated bankruptcy rate of counties without gambling. They found that counties with gambling had a bankruptcy filing rate 18% higher than those without.� 
According to a 2004 study by Ernie Goss, Professor of Economics, and Edward Morse, Professor of Law, Creighton University, �Results from applying regression analysis to U.S. bankruptcy data for 1990 and 1999 indicate that counties that legalized casinos during the period suffered individual bankruptcy rates more than 100 percent higher than counties that remained �casinoless.�� 
But the West Virginia legislature does not need statistics. All they have to do is drive a few miles to Cross Lanes and asked Whittaker if he is happy. The true face of gambling, alone, facing criminal charges, and nearly destitute will not need to speak. Reflecting on his countenance will tell them enough.
Even though they have the greatest example why not to, the legislature will pass table games this session. As William Thompson of the University of Nevada said, �It�s part of the American landscape, they�ll trade morality for dollars.�
- The Impact of Casino Gambling on Personal Bankruptcy Filing Rates (PDF)
- The Impact of Casio Gambling on Bankruptcy Rates: A County Level Analysis (PDF)
- Add your comments (2 so far)