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Gambling Is Exploitative, Immoral

Column by Michael K. Chung
Opinion Editor

The recent debate of gambling in the state of Massachusetts is upsetting in a moral sense. Over the summer, Governor William Weld, in an effort to stand by his campaign promise of not introducing new taxes, proposed the opening of gambling boats. Money raised from such casino boats would be used by the government to fund a new "megaplex" -- for instance, a new convention center, since officials agreed that the Hynes Convention Center was not large enough to accommodate the convention hall needs of the city.

In a letter to The Boston Globe, I wrote that such a move reflected upon the morals of our nation. First of all, gambling is immoral. Secondly, although many people are able to demonstrate restraint and control (both relative to what the gambler sets out to risk or win), many others are unable to do so, losing large sums of money, which often leads to scarred lives and families. Also, it is immoral for the government to take advantage of people's weaknesses in such a manner to raise revenue for its own interests, whether they concur with the public's interests or not. Although this can be viewed as something along the lines of a "selective tax system," I feel that it is better for revenue to be raised through other methods, such as contributions and fund-raisers.

The issue of gambling boats is now peanuts compared to what is in the agenda for the state. As of last Friday, Keno has been introduced to bars throughout the state. Keno is a lottery-style game which can be played as quickly as every five minutes. Consider the implications of such a practice: people, losing their inhibitions, control, guard, and better judgment, emptying their wallets to a game for which they have essentially no control over. They may be able to pick "their" numbers, but cannot directly affect the outcome. And depending on the award system, they may win small amounts (for instance up to $1,000) for partially correct tickets, which may fuel them to gamble yet again.

Another item up for institution is the construction of gambling casinos in the Boston area, even one in downtown Boston. Since casinos have opened in neighboring states (e.g. New Hampshire), Massachusetts residents have been observed traveling to them. Massachusetts officials feel that if casinos are opened here, then not only will the state residents play there, but others will as well. They even go on to say in previous issues of the Globe that gamblers will come to Boston, see the other sites that other tourists come to see, and possibly come back to Boston, contributing more of their money to the area.

I'm not clear as to exactly where the money is going to, be it the state government, city government, or if private investors are building casinos as well, but I find such arguments rather disappointing. To open casinos with the intent of raising revenues and drawing tourists is simply unacceptable on the grounds mentioned above. (On a side note, I read recently that Washington, DC may establish casinos to draw more tourists and revenues. Washington DC? I don't want to see the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials surrounded by casinos, no matter how classy they look.) Whether or not the type of tourists casinos draw is unimportant to me (in articles in the week-long series of the gambling industry last week in the Globe, descriptions of Las Vegas and Atlantic City were given, and how much of those areas' violence is largely a result of organized crime and the casino industry) is not the issue of concern for me.

What bothers me is the direction which our nation's industry is heading. The casino industry is the largest growing industry, surpassing even the computer industry, according to an article in the Sept. 26 Globe. It is really disheartening to me that this statement was made. Whether or not it is accurate is not the central concern of mine. It is clear that much of the manufacturing of American consumer goods (for instance, toys, clothes, electronics) takes place in foreign countries, so the stage is set for such projections to be made on a purely qualitative level. Such observations concern me in regard to my future, and the future of future generations.

As a chemical engineering major, I worry about the move of production to other lands. I want to stay in this country, and construct worthwhile things relevant to the chemical industry, not poker chips to be used in casinos. I want for my children to be able to do the same, not to live in a country in which the primary constructions being built are consumer related -- although I don't have concrete statistics, it seems like most of the complexes being constructed in this country are consumer-related. By consumer-related, I refer to shopping malls, electronics stores (where most of the items come from foreign producers), and entertainment centers. I realize that there are emerging technologies which have developed in the United States (e.g. the biotechnology industry), but I certainly don't see many factories and production centers being fabricated in comparison to those being built as a result of the gaming industry.

The industrial shift of our country to the gambling industry is a disturbing one, signifying the escape of morals from the government and its people, and the loss of American industry. It is true that while nearly all states have daily lotteries and "daily numbers" games, a portion of these funds go to good causes such as education. Officials have sensed the people's desire for a larger number of games, and faster, more thrilling ones, at that. However, this is an issue which cannot be approached the same way as other consumer needs. Our country needs to focus on industries of a nature which will enable its citizens to lead a more moral and stable life. People should not rely on the spin of a ball or the roll of dice in determining their future. For government to exploit such people is inexcusable.