By editorial board • 

For many, gambling addiction a clear and present danger

When we speak of addiction, we typically think of substances producing physiological craving when introduced into the body. We think of alcohol, tobacco, heroin, methamphetamines, cocaine and narcotic painkillers.

But there is a colorless, odorless and formless addictor of equally beguiling nature — gambling. And its hold on the psyche can be every bit as difficult to dislodge, as illustrated poignantly in a News-Register series by reporter Nathalie Hardy.

Archaeological digs have uncovered evidence of gambling dating back 30,000 years. Written gaming records were discovered from 2300 B.C. in China and nearly as long ago in India, Egypt, Greece and Japan — a span of 4,300 years.

Critics began warning of potential evils centuries before the birth of Christ. However, gambling has been growing exponentially in recent decades.

It’s hard to imagine, but Indian gaming didn’t start until 1979, when the Seminoles opened a bingo parlor catering to Florida retirees. Within 30 years, 300 Indian casinos were taking in more than $25 billion a year, approaching the $35 billion take of the nation’s 450 commercial casinos.

During the same time period, the state lottery business has burgeoned on a parallel track, now grossing more than $25 billion a year itself.

The risk of addiction doubles for people living within 50 miles of a casino, and we live within 50 miles of one of one of the biggest — Spirit Mountain, which long ago overtook Multnomah Falls as the top tourist attraction in a state best known for scenic values. Our local enterprise’s array of slot machines rival those of landmark casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

What’s more, in Oregon, as in most other states, you can now play video poker at street corner venues all around town. Lottery ticket vendors are even more pervasive, and you can engage in online gaming from the convenience of your home, your workplace or even your car.

Gaming is rapidly becoming a $100-billion-dollar business and is deeply embedded in our economy and government. Commercial casinos alone support more than 350,000 jobs, and state and local governments are skimming off more than $5 billion in annual tax revenue.

The nation is harboring 2.5 to 3 million full-blown addicts, and perhaps twice that number of “problem gamblers” just one step behind. Addiction demands our full attention, as it sparks suicide, domestic violence, bankruptcy and embezzlement — the stuff of wrecked homes and ruined lives.

Unfortunately for gambling addicts, they are surrounded as never before by sources of temptation.

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