December 12, 2014 Radio Commentary

Horse Racing & Pari-mutuel Betting would Expand Government

Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, December 12, 2014 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler

Are you ready to create another government agency? If not, we have a battle on our hands. On November 17th Representative Harry Geisinger pre-filed H.R. 1 to make horse racing constitutional in Georgia. At the same time, he pre-filed his 38-page H.B. 2 to make it happen. But those 38 pages go beyond horse racing. They outline a system for pari-mutuel betting to be controlled by a seven-member all-expenses-paid horse racing commission to license racetrack facilities and schedule at least 60 live racing days in Georgia every year. The races would be simulcast to satellite facilities throughout the state and Internet betting would be set up to accommodate online gamblers.

They expect to collect a ton of new revenue, but let’s look at the facts. First, it’s never cheap to expand government and hire new people. Second, gambling is extremely harmful to gamblers and families. Average pathological gamblers pay about $1,200 a year to treat their habit, although they might never be cured. A fourth of habitual gamblers lose their jobs; 28 percent file for bankruptcy or owe $75,000 to $150,000 gambling debts; players with incomes under $10,000 lose nearly 10 percent of the family income at casinos and do three times more betting in lotteries than those earning over $50,000. 28 percent of pathological gamblers are either separated or divorced, nearly double the non-gambler rate and one in five commits suicide, a rate 20 times higher than non-gamblers. During one 14-month period in Indiana, 72 children were found abandoned on casino premises. In Louisiana and South Carolina, children locked in hot cars for hours died, while their care-takers gambled. At Connecticut’s Foxwoods casino, which is the biggest casino in the United States, officials had to post signs in parking lots to warn parents not to leave their children in cars. Domestic violence shelters on the Mississippi Gulf Coast had requests for help increase from 100 to 300 percent because of casinos and, since 1996 domestic violence murders have been traced to gambling problems.

In 1999, 1.1 million adolescents between 12 and 18 were already pathological gamblers. I wonder how many of them were among the 20 percent of pathological gamblers that committed suicide that year. Apart from the untold cost of funding another government agency, whether or not there is ever a nickel made from a state race industry, can Georgia afford the inevitable disastrous cultural effects that follow on the hooves of horse racing and pari-mutuel gambling? For Georgia Insight I’m Sue Ella Deadwyler, your Capitol correspondent.