When I use the word “Sovereignty”, it means just what I choose it to mean neither more nor less. John Negroponte ilfr’ ‘ ,,’ ri ti i iivigil! Tio rg ,fi ,,flfI i iii i y l iw fl.ifo 11′,1/ 111,,r 11,,il i ir\(1 1,11/11;;IIIII/bii i l li i i i, ‘,I’.:111,1:ril i li riii\\1 1.11i 111,1′,,’11,’,,1/1,1,1:1:!,,r11;i i ,’,111:11,1′,1′!”I;I1,11,111t/i i l’ ,/11!.,,,lf,,,,,, i :11,!?4,’,i,lioi:i i iii, i .,, I ‘i ll, P.1.1.1111.1:’11!:’.1.1.111.,,!1,11,.11,1111ui i :,.`1111”I’u ””I”ill ‘i t i.i ii i lli’l li ‘l ”;;I:I’ll:1117 ::::11i7H illi.:.:11’1””I’l’:41.’iri :1:’::11111:111111:1:1.11’111’ii.1111 .’; ill’ ll’ill’ ll”””””” 1 01,11,, i \(10 \(r ill/ ri771:1\(itlif ifofii:..1,.11;411,,,,,,t11\(1111011;\(, illill 1,111,1ifril Iti!,,i 1 ill IIIIiiiiiiriiiiih..:iliiiiiN,Iii,Iiii,Nfii,p,’ .4 ;1 i lilio kilt ,’ iii NYTS CWS www.danzigercartoons.corri April 28 200:1995 a file cabinet of gambling-related articles, and a subscription to the Journal of Gambling Studies. Now, Paynter is taking her near encyclopedic knowledge of gambling to the Capitol, urging legislators to oppose proposals like the governor’s that would use so-called video lottery terminals to partly finance the state’s education system. Supporters of VLTswhich resemble slot machineslump them with other “sin” taxes, like the $1 extra tax on cigarettes or the governor’s other proposal, a $5 additional cover charge at strip clubs. The argument is that sin taxes are voluntarily paidhardly real taxes at all. That’s convenient for many statehouse members who took White House Ideology Czar Grover Norquist’s no-tax pledge. Politically, a vote for sin taxes carries a low cost; lechers and smokers don’t get as much public sympathy as school kids, property-tax payers, or even business owners. But, as Paynter is quick to point out, VLTs run exactly counter to the purpose of sin taxes, which are supposed to raise revenue at the same time they discourage unhealthy behaviors. Unlike cigarette or “adult entertainment” taxes, which tax existing practices, VLTs create a new and costly vice by which the state and the gambling industry profit. VLTs don’t target casual gamblers and occasional lottery players; revenues from VLTs depend on addicts. A study conducted by the Louisiana Gaming Board estimated that nearly a third of the revenue from that state’s video poker games comes out of the pockets of gambling addictseven though genuine addicts represent only about 2 percent of the general population. A study headed by Robert Breen, associate director of the Rhode Island Gambling Treatment Program, found that VLTs create pathological addiction nearly four times faster than other popular games of chance. Using a central computer to track players’ gambling style, VLTs adjust the game accordingly, making it seem that gamblers are perpetually on the brink of a big win. Breen estimates that fully 75 percent of addicts treated in the Rhode Island program are addicted to slot machines or their electronic equivalents. Gambling supporters often put forward the morally dubious argument that gambling doesn’t cause unhealthy behaviors, just takes advantage of them. Most pathological gamblers, they say, already suffer from depression, alcoholism, or other mental problems. Not so, Breen found: the typical addict in his study was a middle-aged professional with a family. The average addict in Breen’s Rhode Island program had lost between $75,000 and $80,000. The gambling addiction that VLTs create is costly. Much of this hidden “tax” is shunted to local governments. According to research by Baylor University economist Dr. Earl Grinols, casinos create crime in surrounding areas. Grinols estimates one pathological gambler can cost local governments more than $13,000 for illness, addiction treatment, incarceration, and costs related to crime and bankruptcy. Taxpayers in areas surrounding casinos pay roughly $3 for every $1 of gambling revenue. Perry hopes VLTs will raise $2 billion for the next budget cycle. To support those estimates, the state’s 300,000 or so new gambling addicts will need to lose a total of $540 million. City and county governments could pick up a tab of around $1.6 billion in related costs. If Perry can’t add these numbers up, Paynter would be happy to do it for him. Paynter and others with the General Baptist Convention of Texas, which has about 2.4 million members across the state, have made several requests for a meeting with the governor, but as the continued on page 22 5/7/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11
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