For Immediate Release

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

For more information, contact

Dr. Guy C. Clark

National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling

For more information, contact:

Dr. Guy C. Clark, Chairman NCALG

guyclark@mindspring.com

505-898-8011 or 505-259-7541

            Tom Grey, Field Director, NCALG

            ThomasAGrey@aol.com

            312-346-9766, ext 131

 

 

 

 

Harvard yields to ‘The Dark Side’

            Federal gambling ‘Superfund’ study needed

 

 

“The pool of information is getting so poisoned it’s going to take a superfund to clean it up,” says Dr. Guy C. Clark

            Clark, who chairs the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambloing, charged the leading gambling research facility at Harvard University has been “co-opted” by the gambling industry and is flooding the nation with “politically irrelevant pabulum” deliberately intended to confuse the real costs of legalized gambling.

            Clark charges Harvard has “joined The Dark Side,” shifting from neutrality on gambling questions to a position of outright advocacy.

            “They’ve become the academic apologists of the industry. The gambling industry funds them, and the gambling industry is getting its money’s worth. But it’s time for that to stop,” Clark said.

            “The American Gaming Association and its minions have trotted across the country citing ‘peer reviewed’ propaganda they claim proves they don’t cause addiction, bankruptcy and crime. Most people know better, but politicians use industry-funded disinformation to justify gambling expansion,” Clark said.

            Clark says there is one way to settle the question, and that is to re-commission the work of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission. That commission, funded during the Clinton Administration, issued its final report in 1999. “They called for a pause in gambling until more research could be done,” Clark said. “NCAGE has already challenged President Bush and Congress to place a moratorium on gambling expansion, and today we’re asking for a significant, unbiased and honest research to help government and citizens make better decisions. We’re asking Congress to finish the work their own commission said was necessary.

             “There has been no pause in expansion other than moments won by dedicated anti-gambling activists. There has been some significant research showing the impacts of gambling, but the gambling industry has paid for its own studies. The AGA even set up its own front organization, the National Center for Responsible Gaming, which in turn funnels money to Harvard, to generate self-serving studies and make it look like knowledge is increasing. What they’ve really done is increased confusion.

            “They pay one group to verify the work of another paid group and call that ‘peer review.’ In reality, they have gambling lackeys vouching for gambling apologists.

            “AGA executives trot about the country quoting their tainted fabrications to legislators and communities. They say there’s ‘no proof’ of gambling’s social costs. Well, let’s open the books and look,” Clark said. With that, he sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services director Mike Leavitt asking him to back and coordinate a new study commission.

            “That study commission must have subpoena powers this time,” according to Clark. The earlier federal studies couldn’t look into the realities of casino marketing because the NGISC didn’t have subpoena power. “We say that 30 to 50 percent of gambling revenues come from problem and pathological gamblers. The industry denies that. OK, let’s open the books and see. Let’s see what applying ‘loyalty marketing’ techniques to an addictive product really does.”

            Clark said he expects the industry to support government-supervised studies. “If the gambling promoters are right, the investigation will show it. If they’re honest, they have nothing to fear and they’ll be happy to see legitimate, independent research. It’s time to ‘put up or shut up,’” he said.

 

ATTACHED: Story from NCALG e-newsletter, the Bet’s Off Bulletin.
    Harvard :The Best Name Money Can Buy

Harvard, the venerable institution founded in 1636, is among America’s most recognizable academic “Brands”. Its public reputation is among the highest of America’s institutions.a

     Through association, the phrase “Harvard says,” becomes powerful validation, even when followed by statements Harvard didn’t really make, or, perhaps, was paid to say. Thus it follows that when one of America’s least reputable institutions – gambling – went shopping for a spokesman, they determined “Harvard” was the best name money could buy.

     The American Gamingb Association (AGA) opened shop in Washington, D.C. in 1995 to promote, in their own words, “better understanding of the gaming entertainment industry by bringing facts about the industry to the general public, elected officials, other decision makers and the media through education and advocacy.”c

     The AGA became the propaganda machine for the commercial casino companies that funded it. The casinos faced tough questions from politicians and anti-gambling groups as gambling proliferated across the nation in the early 1990s.

     Those questions intensified in 1996, when Congress funded the National Gambling Impact Study Commission (NGISC). Despite gambling’s expensive attempts to stack the commission and its success in stripping it of subpoena power, the commission’s final report in 1999 posted strong warnings about gambling expansion. It called for a “pause” in the expansion of gambling until more information on addiction, bankruptcy, crime, job cannibalization and other topics could be studied.    

     But gambling proponents were already staging their response. The same year the NGISC started its research, casinos founded their own “gambling research” organization, the National Center for Responsible Gambling (NCRG). Boyd Gaming Corporation provided the start-up funds for the NCRG and made a 10-year pledge of $875,000. Other leading gaming companies, including Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc., International Game Technology, Mandalay Resort Group, MGM Mirage and Park Place Entertainment Corporation were “early and generous supporters,” according to NCRG’s own web site.

     The site notes, “Today, with the contributions of the casino gaming industry, equipment manufacturers, vendors, related organizations and individuals, more than $13 million has been committed to the NCRG, an unprecedented level of funding for gambling research. This financial support has enabled the NCRG to attract the best minds from the most prestigious institutions to conduct research in this uncharted field,”d (Emphasis added.)

     They boast the group is run by scholars and health care professionals, but it is chaired by professional lobbyist and former Congressman Dennis E. Eckart, with William Boyd, chairman of Boyd Gaming, serving as president, and the AGA’s senior vice president and executive director, Judy Patterson as secretary-treasurer. Only five of the 21 remaining directors represent health care or academic organizations. The rest are all gambling executives or lobbyists.

     Among the five is Howard J. Shaffer, Ph.D. Director, Division on Addictions, Harvard Medical School, which is funded by the gambling industry through NCRG.

     Gambling interests funded the NCRG with, according to their own accounts, $13 million. Of that they have contributed $6 million to “research,” with that funding now going exclusively to the Harvard Project.

     Harvard insists the NCRG board exercises no control over its research, but at least two noted treatment experts left the NCRG board because of their concerns about just such problems. Both indicated the NCRG would not likely allow researchers to tackle the big issues of proximity, high-speed addiction of machines and other factors that could be damaging to the industry.
     Clinical psychiatrist Dr. Henry Lesieur from the Rhode Island Hospital’s gambling treatment program and UCLA’s Dr. Richard Rosenthal resigned from the NCRG board three years ago after concluding that the gambling industry wielded too much influence over the research.e

     Still, Harvard’s addiction department continues to disburse grants to other research applications. With Shaffer as editor and other Harvard staff on the editorial board, The  Journal of Gambling Studies, served as a prestigious gathering point and filter for research.  Harvard editors in turn spent considerable ink “debunking” other contributed research. As an adjunct to its publishing efforts, Harvard distributed the WAGER, an online review of current topics between 2004 and 2005. The typical WAGER review comprised an outline of a study’s premise, followed by the study’s findings. Typically the last WAGER paragraphs were dedicated to a repetitive disclaimer that results were not conclusive because of sample size or some other weakness.

     A classic example was the August, 2002 examination of suicides and their relationship to gambling. “Do Casinos have Casualties? Mixed Evidence for a Gambling-Suicide Link.” Why Harvard would choose to review this study, which it concluded was inconclusive and flawed in many regards, is unclear. The Harvard editor dismissed the study’s results for a number of reasons, including, relationships between gambling settings and suicide rates could potentially be due to common features that influence suicide other than casino presence. For example, Nevada is home to a great number of retirees, a population which has demonstrated higher suicide rates.”

     That would be interesting if it were true. Nevada ranks 44th in the nation for population over 65.f Nevada has ranked first in the nation in suicide rates for 10 of the last 14 years, never coming in lower than fourth.g In suicides per capita it was surpassed recently by Montana, which has more video lottery terminals and Gamblers Anonymous chapters per capita than any other state in the nation.h

     Still, AGA spokesman Frank Fahrenkopf traverses the country announcing that “peer reviewed “ studies have “failed to prove” a relationship between gambling and suicide. In AGA logic, having “failed to prove” an assertion is equal to a “proof” of its antithesis.”

     Fahrenkopf and his peers have deceived numerous legislators with illusions of “peer reviewed” studies that “prove” there is no correlation between gambling and crime, no correlation between casino proximity and addiction, and that gambling takes money away from other businesses.

     Harvard’s addiction department is not the only tool of the gambling industry. The university’s renowned Kennedy School of Government is deeply connected to Native American organizations dedicated to the economic and political development of Indian reservations. Unfortunately, those organizations have adopted the NIGA mantra of gambling as the “New Buffalo” which will elevate the reservations to the status of economically and politically independent nations.

     Again, the “Harvard” brand is a deliberate purchase of the gambling tribes. In 2003, just after Time Magazine published a blistering expose on the status of Indian casino development, NIGA commissioned Harvard to produce a study deliberately designed to show the benefits of Indian gambling.

     News reports at the time quoted Deron Marquez,  chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians saying, “NIGA’s fellow trade organization, the AGA, constantly produces numbers to help its cause. The data bolsters policy decisions and helps make problems go away. Our study would allow the same to take place.”i

     The study was to be headed by Katherine Spilde, a former Director of Research for the NIGA, and an ardent proponent of gambling expansion. Spilde told reporters the study would help reverse “a bona fide public relations crisis,” for Indian gambling.

     NIGA’s Marguez said the study would be “the centerpiece of a public relations campaign” to promote Indian gambling. “The PR and the research go hand in hand. The study will provide the necessary data, and the campaign the necessary visibility.”j

     The study was funded to support an intended finding, with an advertising campaign as the intended result.

     Spilde also played the “peer reviewed” card, noting the study would be “validated” by other academics. “A peer-reviewed report will have the highest integrity possible and insulate us from critics who may try to imply that funding from Indian Country has influenced the results,” she said.k

     “Gambling industry lackeys vouching for gambling industry apologists,” fumes NCALG/NCAGE chairman Dr. Guy C. Clark. A dentist by trade, Clark said, “It reminds me of a mouthwash introduced some years ago with a claim that its in-house studies showed the product was highly effective at removing plaque. Later independent studies showed the product was ‘slightly less effective than water.’

     “Harvard’s motives look about as transparent as water too, no matter what they claim for intentions. I would think they would want to be more protective of the school’s heritage,” Clark concluded. “These so-called studies are no more than gambling industry in-house advocacy dressed up as academics.”

a. Gatlin, Greg. “Harvard is hot in reputation, PR study says” Boston Herald, Oct. 20, 2004. Study by Boston Public Relations firm Morrissey & Co.

b. Gambling industry executives prefer the term “gaming” because it has better connotations than “gambling.”

c. AGA web site, http://www.americangaming.org/about/overview.cfm, April 10, 2005.

d. NCRG web site, http://www.ncrg.org/about/index.cfm, April 10, 2005. Emphasis added.

e. Mishra, Raja, Boston Globe, Nov. 6, 2004,  http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2004/11/06/gambling_industry_link_to_harvard_draws_questions/

f .U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States, July, 2002.

g. American Association of Suicidology, http://www.suicidology.org/associations/1045/files/2002FinalData.pdf

h. Gamblers Anonymous meetings in Montana, 2003, (11 November 2003) and U.S. Census Bureau American FactFinder, Montana population (2002), Table 1 Population Estimates, 2003, (11 November 2003). As cited in www.family.org/cforum/fosi/gambling/facts/a0028806.cfm

i.  Smith, Rob, “Indian Gaming Study Should Answer Industry Foes” May 12, 2003,  http://www.pechanga.net/article/Indian%20Gaming%20Study%20Should%20Answer%20Industry%20Foes.htm

j. Smith.

k. Smith.

 

 

It’s absurd . . .

AGA adept at misrepresenting study results

The Miami Sun Herald recently found 137 references to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission Final Report on the web site of the American Gaming Association.

      The commission’s former executive director, Timothy A. Kelly, said,  It’s absurd for the gaming industry to use our report to support their position.”

      Kelly noted that the commission - which comprised academics, family advocates, government officials and representatives from the gaming industry - recommended a moratorium on expanding legalized gambling in the United States until better research could be done on its social costs.

      To date, he said, very little of that research has been done. Government agencies lack the will to fund such studies because politicians have become dependent on the taxes and campaign contributions that come their way from the gambling industry, said Kelly, now a professor of psychology at the Fuller Theological Seminary in California.

— Dolan, Jack and Hoad, Christina, Miami Herald March 3, 2005. “Studies differ on gambling’s benefits, costs: Casinos blamed for social ills http://www.sunherald.com/mld/sunherald/business/11036564.htm

 

 

 

Magnificent casino largesse?

The American Gaming Association often boasts of their industry’s largesse in funding gambling addiction studies. They say they have contributed $8 million to “research” through the National Center for Responsible Gambling since 1996. That munificence amounts to almost 44 ten thousandths of one percent of the money they won from consumers. That’s 00.0044% at best. (AGA charts show customers lost  nearly $181 billion to commercial casinos since the NCRG was formed. That does not count losses to Indian or government sponsored gambling.)