It was a breath of fresh media air to read Phil Primack’s article “Playing the Numbers” (CW, Winter ’08), which provides evidence that the Patrick administration did not do its homework when projecting casino benefits in terms of jobs and revenue.

Unfortunately, they also did not do their homework on the projected costs of casinos. One 2004 book, Gambling in America: Costs and Benefits, by Baylor University economics professor Earl L. Grinols, found that casino financial costs (increases in crime, bankruptcy, domestic violence, suicide attempts, and addictions of all kinds) easily exceed benefits by three to one.

The National Gambling Impact Study Commission recommendation that an independent cost-benefit analysis be completed prior to the expansion of legalized gambling has been ignored, until now, by the Patrick administration. Other NGISC recommendations not included in the governor’s casino proposal were:

—Enforced casino advertising guidelines to protect low-income populations. In some studies, up to 65 percent of gambling losses comes from those least able to afford it.

—A ban on credit card advances, ATM cash advances, and instant loans at casinos. Most money lost in casinos comes from those sources, not from money carried into casinos.

—Restrictions on gambling industry political campaign contributions. The industry now outspends casino opponents by 75 to 1.

The NGISC provides empirical evidence that about 30 percent of people who visit casinos have some level of mild, moderate, or severe gambling problem. Gov. Patrick’s statement that “to 97 percent of people who visit casinos, it is harmless entertainment” (made in a speech at Brown University and reported by the Providence Journal last October), shows his reliance on the gambling industry’s minimization of gambling addiction problems and calls into question the advice the governor is getting from his human services staff and their plan for mitigating the inevitable significant human costs of casinos.

Tom Larkin

Tom Larkin is a licensed psychologist and a facilitator for SMART Recovery, an organization that assists people with addictive behaviors.