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Commentary: There’s no good reason to legalize sports gambling

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As we prepare for the 2023 Georgia legislative session, issues like sports gambling are being discussed especially since it’s an election year. And, once again, there is not anything truly good about legalizing gambling!

Studies have shown repeatedly that the legalization and promotion of vices like sports gambling could increase addiction rates by at least another 110% in our state.

Sports gambling, while it is being done illegally in our state now, will be exponentially worse if made legal, especially in terms of addiction. An addiction hotline in Tennessee has seen as much as an 800 percent increase in calls since sports gambling was legalized.

Here is another fact: The American Psychiatric Association’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” classifies gambling as an addictive product likened unto heroin, opioids, alcohol, and cocaine.

One of the most chilling effects of gambling has to do with mental illness.

This year in an anti-gambling press conference held at the Georgia State Capitol, Representative Todd Jones, the sponsor of the new mental health legislation, reminded us, “We know, no matter what your opinion is on gambling that almost every family in this state is impacted by either mental health or substance abuse.”

Representative Jones said suddenly putting in a third entity like gambling, which is intellectually dishonest, will harm families. He said this is not something that Georgians can support.

In addition to the mental aspects, there are economic ones to consider.

We already know that each new addicted gambler costs the taxpayers $28,000 to $104,000 per year, and like drug addicts, each gambling addict negatively affects the lives of between seven and 17 other people.

It is a well-established fact that for every $1 in new revenue from gambling, the cost to taxpayers, DHS agencies, and governments is at least $3 to $5. Gambling creates no new product and is profitable only via constant increases in human misery.

The APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists multiple socioeconomic costs connected to gambling. Problem gamblers regularly engage in child abuse, spousal abuse, and crime—culminating in increased divorce rates.

Again, it is beyond any reasoning that I can understand to justify the expansion of any predatory activity, such as sports gambling. There is no doubt that our citizens will be manipulated by false advertising – financed by the almost unlimited resources of Big Gambling -- into believing that the “benefits” of gambling outweigh the detriments.

Not to mention, the detriment this will be to our children.

In Australia, the online gambling establishment has children starting to gamble at age 11. In the U.K. there are 55,000 problem gamblers who are under 16 years old, and 28 million U.K. kids were illegally targeted by gambling companies, resulting in a 15% increase in problem gambling in kids.

In the U.S., the Campaign for Gambling-Free Kids reports that “more than half of 16-year-olds have gambling apps on their smartphones.”

This is a critical point: Much of the newly legalized gambling would be instantly available to minors on their phones, making it almost impossible to protect the most vulnerable prey from the traps set by this kind of predatory gambling.

We must constantly stay on our guard because our children are the ones who suffer the most from the legalization of vices such as alcohol, pornography, abortion, and gambling activities.

There is no amount of taxation, regulation and economic gain that would justify the harm that legalized sports gambling would have on individuals, marriages, families, and children!

The legislation that they may be considering next year may or may not require a constitutional amendment. Therefore, without a constitutional amendment, all that would be required is for the House and the Senate to have a majority vote in favor of it and then the Governor to sign it into law.

That is why now is the time for you to contact your Georgia state representatives and senators and let them know that you are opposed to the legalization of sports gambling in the state of Georgia.

See Professor John Kindt’s, “ABC’s of Gambling” for more facts and documentation.

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Mike Griffin is the Public Affairs Representative of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.

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