Former Gambler Says Pa. Casinos Drawing Young People

WFMZ-TV 69News
Bo Koltnow | Reporter

From July 12, 2011

Chasing the high is a term many addicted gamblers use to explain why they bet. A bill being kicked around by the Pennsylvania legislature is aimed at preventing gambling addiction. In the early 1980s, Bill Kearney of Montgomery County was a casino high roller, a lifestyle he said cost him millions of dollars.

“I never got back my losses because it’s impossible,” Kearney said. Gambling in Pennsylvania is a multi-billion dollar business, but Kearney, now a consumer protection advocate, said there is no protection for consumers.

“When they are sitting at that casino, they can gamble from the day they sit down to the day they drop dead,” said Kearney, who added that gamblers are getting younger. Table games are being inundated with younger-than-30 gamblers who Kearney said are caught up in the glamorized high stakes games of poker and blackjack.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board said casinos do train employees to spot compulsive gamblers, have a self exclusion program for those who want to stay away, and offer toll-free hotline help. Kearney wants better oversight. By demanding casinos provide monthly statements to reward card members, Kearney said it would save thousands of people from financial ruin by stopping the problem before it becomes one. “How did that $200 become $600? How did that happen? When people realize, ‘Wow, we blew a couple of thousand of children’s education money, mortgage money,'” it makes a difference,” Kearney said.

A state bill requiring casinos to do so is expected to be voted on this fall, but casinos have been fighting back, saying it would be too costly and even harm gamblers. “That is blowing smoke,” said Pa. Rep. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks County. “They all send out letters to selected patrons. They entice them back with free weekend or meal. So, the fact they send out can include a monthly statement.”

The bill has died in committee several times before. Statewide, casinos are set to make close to $3 billion this year. Kearney said he is hoping it’s not from your wallet.

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