|In America, experts are warning of increased rates of problem gambling among university students in the wake of a proposal to permit new casinos in Massachusetts.|
Politicians are debating a proposal by Governor Deval Patrick that would see the development of three resort casinos, but critics are warning that students are susceptible to gambling addictions with administrations not prepared to deal with the fallout.
'There is a steady flow of high school and college students that attempt to get into the casinos,' said Marvin Steinberg, Head for The Connecticut Council On Problem Gambling.
Researchers at Boston’s Harvard University have pegged the rate of students with a severe gambling problem at five percent with another seven percent considered ‘problem’ gamblers.
Both figures are approximately double the adult rates with critics worried that Governor Patrick's plan would put poker, roulette, slot machines and the accompanying free drinks within a short drive from many of the state's more than 100 college campuses.
'By the time they get to college, most kids have already gambled,' said Keith Whyte, Executive Director for The National Council On Problem Gambling, citing the lottery.
'However, most have probably not had the opportunity to go to a casino with high stakes and access to credit. It would be exposing them to a new type of gambling.'
However, the Governor estimates that the three resort casinos would generate $450 million in annual tax revenue, which he would spend on repairing roads and giving property tax credits to homeowners.
Casinos generated $57 billion in revenue last year with Massachusetts among only 14 states still prohibiting casinos and slot machines. Patrick acknowledged that there could be side effects, such as addiction and child neglect, but said that these were manageable through programs to be funded by casino tax revenue.
'These are destination resort casinos,' said JudyAnn Bigby, Secretary Of Health for Massachusetts. 'It's not designed to attract college students. My understanding of where the students gamble is on the Internet.'