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Stop Predatory Gambling amicus brief in Supreme Court case Christie vs NCAA

To help the Supreme Court better understand the stakes of this critical case, Stop Predatory Gambling assembled a broad and diverse coalition to file an amicus brief demonstrating the law’s constitutionality and highlighting how state-sanctioned gambling has been a spectacular failure. The brief explains how state-sanctioned gambling uses unfair and deceptive marketing practices to target and prey on the financially desperate and the addicted; reduces opportunity for millions of American families to improve their economic standing; and forces even those citizens who rarely or never gamble to foot the bill for the enormous social costs and state budget problems it leaves behind.

There are several co-signers that joined with Stop Predatory Gambling. They include national advocacy groups that focus on issues ranging from economic justice to public health, such as The Center for Popular Democracy, United for a Fair Economy and The Public Health Advocacy Institute, along with some of the nation’s largest and most prominent Christian and Muslim religious groups.
Les BernalStop Predatory Gambling amicus brief in Supreme Court case Christie vs NCAA
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A Profile of Stephen Paddock Written By an Addicted Gambler

The following was written by an addicted gambler who asked to remain anonymous. It was received by Stop Predatory Gambling on October 5, 2017:

Here is profile of Mr. Stephen Paddock provided by a fellow problem gambler. I am not a psychologist or addiction specialist, but I have suffered this addiction for many years and have spoken in confidence with many others having this affliction.

While I certainly cannot justify Mr. Paddock’s actions (they were horrible and misdirected), I do understand his anger and rage. Because of this internal rage, I refuse to own a gun or other deadly weapon, but I have fantasized about exacting revenge against those who exploit my weakness for their personal gain. (My fantasy involves their criminal imprisonment and brutal justice from fellow inmates.) Intellectually, I know I have to be responsible for being a gambling addict, but that doesn’t mean that emotionally I don’t also want to punish my pusher.

Mr. Paddock’s rage was directed against many innocent people. In particular, his choice of specific targets clearly illustrates irrational behavior. Why should that surprise anyone? Continued gambling for the problem gambler is not a rational act. Problem gambling is not about monetary gain. It’s to either emotionally escape personal issues or to initiate a dopamine high in the gambler’s brain.

Most problem gamblers know they will lose in the long run. I have a technical background and can explain mathematically why continued gambling means that I might as well write a check to the casinos equal to total long term amount bet multiplied by the percentage house advantage. In the long term, the statistical variance will shrink to zero from the house advantage percentage, meaning there is no gamble at all, only a contribution which can be easily calculated.

So why do we continue to gamble? Whether we realize it or not, many of us do it for the rush (the release of dopamine across the brain’s synapses) similar to that experienced by cocaine users. It’s brain chemistry, like falling in love. Problem gamblers can stay on a casino floor for 24 to 36 hours, without needing sleep or becoming hungry. Compare those feelings to that of a love-struck teenager who can’t eat or sleep.

After awhile on a binge, the brain’s temporary storage of dopamine is depleted and many problem gamblers continue to gamble desperately trying to unconsciously squeeze out the last bit of dopamine to avoid the depression and eventual crash. They may enter a disassociate state, where nothing else matters except continuing to gamble.

Long term, I believe the problem gambler’s brain chemistry and neural network change in fundamental ways. Gambling abstinence for long periods of time can help heal the mind and help restore normal dopamine levels and neural circuitry in the brain. However, neural paths associated with prior gambling activity remain, and these pleasurable memories lead to urges, which if not consciously fought (not an easy task), lead to relapse. The continuation of gambling reinforces the addictive neural paths and dopamine releases, creating a positive feedback situation. Urges create gambling activity, which in turn increases the frequency and intensity of the urges to gamble. It’s a vicious cycle.

A lot of people gamble in this country, but not many of these folks commit mass murder. So how do we explain Mr. Paddocks actions?

Many problem gamblers exhibit a Jekyll and Hyde persona, as they oscillate between their rational and emotional / addictive states. For example, except for gambling, I am a tightwad. I shop at the dollar store and garage sales, never eat out (except off a fast food dollar menu) and refuse to go the doctor or dentist. Yet, I’ll spend hundreds in a casino in a given evening, gambling until every last dollar is gone.

Much has been made about Mr. Paddock’s supposed wealth, despite his huge wagers. He might not yet be financially strapped, but when he is “sober” (out of action and off the immediate dopamine rush), the rational portion of his mind sees the huge monetary losses and he is angry at himself and at the casinos, whom his rational mind blames for exploiting his weakness.

At the same time, the emotional part of Mr. Paddock’s brain is trying to make a semi-rational argument to delude himself into continuing his addictive behavior. Hence, Mr. Paddock refers to himself as a “professional gambler,” even though he plays video poker. Real professional gamblers don’t consistently win against casino owned gambling devices. They beat other, nonprofessional, gamblers in live poker games.

Not only has Mr. Paddock deluded himself, the Dr. Jekyll portion of his personality has been able to fool his family and has been apparently able to successfully speculate in real estate. However, even his closest brother in Orlando FL seems to know little about Stephen’s life. Other brothers have little or no contact with him. His closest relationship seems to be with Marilou Danley, a high roller casino hostess. It seems reasonable that their relationship began as a result of her role as a casino hostess.

For quite some time, Mr. Paddock has been deluding himself about the impact of problem gambling on his life. This includes not only monetary losses, but also loss of personal and social contacts outside of gambling. Superficially, Mr. Paddock could appear quite normal and friendly with neighbors. During short encounters (remember he doesn’t have close friends other than Marilou and other gambling acquaintances) the addiction and the resulting personality flaws remain hidden.

What happened in the past year to make Stephen Paddock stockpile weapons and become a mass murderer? Mr. Paddock retired, reducing outside responsibilities and giving him more time to gamble. Mr. Paddock moved to Nevada, giving him greater access to casino gambling. These facts, coupled with the progressive nature of the disease, compounded his gambling problem significantly.

As the losses mounted (even though he may not have been financially strapped yet), the rational part of Mr. Paddock’s mind became angry at his loss of control. After all, he was a “professional gambler” and a successful real estate speculator (a form of gambling). He was smarter than this.

Yet the loss of control continued. He may have begun to blame the manipulation of the casinos, perhaps rightfully so. Reports say that Caesars awarded him their highest loyalty card rating, for only the highest rollers. I know from outside research that Harrahs (now Caesars) segments gamblers into literally 75 different customer segments to characterize their gambling habits and to lure them back to the casino. The casino industry calls it “relationship management.” I call it, and their reward program, psychological manipulation.

Perhaps, Mr. Paddock began thinking that the casinos were cheating him.

It is my speculation, that a part of Mr. Paddock’s mind finally came to the realization that his gambling was out of control and that he could not stop. He lost all hope and saw no way out. Perhaps he had lost earlier personal relationships and was in danger of losing his last remaining one, Marilou Danley. Perhaps he came to suspect that his relationship with Danley was false. Supposedly, Starbucks personnel overheard Paddock telling her that he had bought her coffee like he had bought her.

In the end, I believe that Mr. Paddock believed that the casinos had ruined his life and he wanted revenge. The gun purchases and the planning were done as his mind was in a diseased, but semi-rational state. I speculate that the actual shooting was done in a manic state, shortly after a period of intense gambling.

A horrible and tragic event was made even more tragic by the death and injury of innocents who had nothing to do with the casino industry that Paddock wanted revenge on. I suspect that, in his sick mind, Paddock was willing to sacrifice innocents to get back at the casinos. However, perhaps the concert audience represented Las Vegas to Paddock, and his rage extended to the entire city.

This is just speculation on my part. I do not justify or condone what Mr. Paddock did. Most problem gamblers would never consider doing what Mr. Paddock did. However, many problem gamblers have a lot of rage, most of it self directed. Gambling addicts have a significantly higher suicide rate than alcoholics and drug addicts.

The American Gaming Association, the national casino lobby, would have you believe that problem gamblers are only a tiny portion of the population, and that the rest of the population can gamble safely as entertainment. Well, please keep this in mind. Casinos in the United States had a net income of approximately $70 BILLION in 2015. On a per capita basis of adults, that’s very expensive

Les BernalA Profile of Stephen Paddock Written By an Addicted Gambler
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Philadelphia City Council votes 17-0 against predatory gambling

The Philadelphia City Council voted 17-0 against adding new forms of predatory gambling in their community.

Stop Predatory Gambling, along with strong local allies, had called upon the City Council of Philadelphia to opt-out of a new Pennsylvania state program that could allow mini-casinos to set up shop in Philadelphia.  A mini-casino can have between 300 and 750 slot machines.  Also allowed could be truck stop casinos, each with five video game terminals.

Joining Stop Predatory Gambling in this request was Liberty Resources, Inc.; Asian Americans United; Arch Street United Methodist Church; and, Casino-Free Philadelphia.

In a letter educating the City Council about the issue, the groups wrote:

“Slot machines are highly addictive. Gambling operations prey on low-income and fixed-income residents, including seniors, people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations. This is not just regressive, predatory exploitation; it is counterproductive to a healthy economy.”

Click on the link below for a copy of the letter:

Opt out of more slot machines in Philadelphia communities letter

Les BernalPhiladelphia City Council votes 17-0 against predatory gambling
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MUST-WATCH: “Out of Luck” the first U.S. film on state lotteries

Out of Luck, the first film to examine government-sanctioned gambling in America, premieres today nationwide on Amazon Prime, iTunes and Google Play. 

We urge you to watch it and then PLEASE RATE THE FILM. Rating takes only a second but it’s vitally important on these digital platforms that they have ratings for better placement.  Please encourage others in your social networks to join you. 

The film is available at these links:

Google Play: Out Of Luck on Google Play!
iTunes: Out of Luck on iTunes

While it investigates lotteries, Out of Luck is significant to those of you who got involved in this movement because you believe government should not bring casinos into your community. Regional casinos are another form of government-sanctioned gambling, as is the current lobbying campaign for online gambling.

The lobbying push for regional casinos and online gambling has happened in a big way because of the practices of state lotteries. They’re the largest predatory gambling operators in the country and have made extreme forms of gambling like electronic gambling machines and $30 scratch tickets seem like a normal activity for government to be marketing to citizens.

How to Hold a Film Screening

1) Who Is Coming?

Ask yourself how many people may attend this screening, as this will help you choose an appropriate venue.

2) What’s the Venue?

Once you have an idea of how many people may come, you can start picking out a venue. If it’s a small number of folks, then a living room or small community room could be fine. If you have a larger group, then start looking at some venues in your community. Churches, community rooms, schools, libraries and meeting rooms within your city or town hall are all great venues for a screening.

Most of these venues will allow you to use their space for free if you let them know the educational purpose of the film, and the audience it is intended for. Make sure to invite their staff/group/congregation to be a part of the screening as well.

3) How Will You View It?

Once you’ve chosen the venue, you’ll have to find out what equipment they have and how they will show the film. Most, if not all, will have a DVD player and projector while some will prefer to connect and play the film via computer. Once the venue has let you know what they prefer, you can purchase the film from the Out of Luck movie website.

4) Which Version of the Film?

You can purchase the film on DVD and/or purchase a digital download from the links on Out of Luck’s website. Please note, the film does have a very few instances of foul language that may not be appropriate for all audiences. In that case, there is an “Education Edition” that is appropriate for all audiences and venues. You can buy the Education Edition DVD here. The Education Edition is only available on DVD for now, but will soon be available for digital download via Amazon. Please check back.

5) Get The Word Out!

Once your venue is set and a date is chosen, it’s time to let people know! Contact your friends and family as well as local churches, recovery/addiction professionals and groups, your local politicians – both for your town and your state legislative district, and your local newspaper. Make sure to reach out via social media and link to the film @outofluckmovie.

6) Enjoy The Film and Hold A Discussion

After the screening, it’s a great idea to have a discussion about the film with those in attendance. The experience of the gamblers, the relationship of government and gambling, the advertising and marketing, and the expansion of lotteries in your state are all great topics for a group to discuss.

7) Share The Event

It’s important to spread the word. This film does not have Hollywood blockbuster budgets and relies on you! Take pictures at your event and share them on social media and with friends, family and your community. Let us know about your event by posting to our Twitter and Facebook pages @outofluckmovie.

If you have any questions, please contact the Out of Luck production team via their website!

*Director Bert Klasey and certain people who are featured in the film are available to attend select screenings and lead or participate in Q&A sessions. If you are interested in bringing them to your event, please contact them above and they will provide the details.

CkirbyMUST-WATCH: “Out of Luck” the first U.S. film on state lotteries
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