I walk into the once inviting lobby of this Halifax water front hotel and am immediately assailed by the reek of tobacco, stale beer and a hint of unwashed flesh. The high-pitched chiming and ringing of the gaming machines almost drowns out the low hum of human voices. Every once in a while a bell rings and music plays as someone hits a jackpot.
Most of the clientele in this casino, a new Nova Scotia “tourist attraction”, appear to be locals. For the most part they are shabbily dressed, and many are elderly. The really dedicated slot machine players all seem to be sucking on a cigarette. I speculate that gambling and smoking are cross-addictive, a lucrative combination for tax collectors. Other patrons look barely old enough to be in the casino legally.
It’s scary to think that studies show young people to be more susceptible to getting hooked on the adrenaline rush of betting. Voltaire once said that lotteries were a “tax on all fools.” Perhaps he would have extended this to casinos, though I would paraphrase it as a tax on all addictive personalities.
I hear frequently of the spouse who discovers their partner has gambled away the RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan) money, or of individuals who’ve re-mortgaged the house and then poured all the funds into slot machines. A version of these, called VLTs or video lotto terminals, can be found in any lounge or tavern in the province. More and more common is the person, often an ADD victim, who can’t be trusted with more than enough money to buy his lunch. Like children, the smarter ones simply turn over the pay check each week to their partner and receive a small “allowance”. Others aren’t fortunate enough to have a responsible person to do this.
Like many other general practitioners, I’ve seen families ripped apart by this addiction. It’s bad enough that governments allow the licensing and selling of addictive substances such as cigarettes, but at least there is the excuse that this was done before the harmful properties were known. But surely this does not apply to gambling, the addictive and devastating propensities of which have been known for many years.
Any government which advocates gambling as a good way to plump out the provincial coffers needs to take a look at increased social costs. Factor in the expense of maintaining welfare payments for bankrupt families, and rehabilitation spending for those who become addicted. Then there is the lost productivity from those who’ve been fired from their jobs, or who support their habit by embezzlement and theft.
Finally, dollars and cents cannot express the pain and suffering this habit inflicts on the victims and their families. Obviously someone is seeing positive aspects to legalized gambling. I just can’t figure out what they are.
“slot machines” LegalJuice.com
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