The proposed massive expansion of gambling in Virginia under the guise of historical racing exposes the historic failure of the commonwealth to take any responsibility for social costs of gambling addiction.
A state that legalizes and regulates gambling — especially one that owns and operates a lottery monopoly — has an economic and ethical obligation to prevent and treat gambling problems among its citizens, especially among seniors, veterans, and members of racial and ethnic minority groups .
Their tragic stories are hidden in plain sight. The Virginia Council on Problem Gambling has heard from a Richmond senior who lost her house due to her gambling debts, a veteran in Norfolk who turned to gambling to escape his pain, and thousands of other Virginians whose lives have been devastated by gambling addiction.
Yet the commonwealth does not allocate 1 cent of more than $300 million in annual lottery and racing revenues to help those who become addicted to gambling, or their families. Now, a state with so little care for social costs is rushing to legalize up to 3,000 gaming machines. What makes these machines so lucrative is also what leads to problems for some players who are caught up chasing jackpots and betting repeatedly in a futile attempt just to break even. People with gambling problems account for a disproportionate share of gambling profits. Forty other states contribute a portion of their revenues to help prevent and treat problem gambling.