Gambling addiction could double near casino, expert says
BOSTON -- A casino in the Bay State: Winners all around? Or will society be left in the hole?
The casino still has hurdles. Perhaps the biggest is whether Gov. Deval Patrick and state lawmakers will expand state gambling to include casinos.
But many wonder-- what's the effect on society if the slots show up in Massachusetts?
"The stats are that about 2 percent of the American population have gambling addictions. For places with a casino within 50 miles it rises to 4 percent," said Brian Johnson, an addiction expert and psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School.
So gambling addicts will most likely double. But this expert also argues that money can outweigh society's conscience. The revenue will help Middleborough-- a town in financial strain-- and create thousands of jobs.
"We all want to have fun and create jobs, and if there's a place to have fun that creates jobs-- that sounds great," he said.
Johnson says the solution lies in responsible public policy. "What people should be thinking is that a fraction of a percent of all revenues from this facility should go to treatment."
Some private organizations-- like the Mass. Commission on Compulsive Gambling-- are already bending the ear of legislators asking for things like counselors in the casino.
Governor Patrick has commissioned a task force to study expanded gaming. He plans to announce his position by the end of next month.
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