Profiting off addiction

Bella Tollestrup-Wimbish

The real winners in gambling


Las Vegas is called Sin City for a reason.

Growing up in Vegas, I became used to being around drugs, alcohol and gambling on a daily basis. Going to casinos to go bowling, play in the arcade or watch a movie was a normal thing that every teenager did.

I wouldn’t go a week without stepping foot into a smoky casino filled with thousands of slot machines, nightclubs and cocktail waitresses walking around trying to sell every drink on their tray tables.

I am used to seeing men and women sitting at slot machines with a glass of whiskey in one hand and a cigarette in the other, wasting money they will never get back.

The gambling industry targets and exploits those who are vulnerable and struggling, specifically low-income populations and those with a history of addiction. The public needs to be more educated about where these establishments get their profit and consider its harmful effects more seriously.

Gambling has never made much sense to me, but I can understand the adrenaline rush. The excitement of winning a pot of money can make someone want to keep trying even if they are ultimately losing in the end. This high can be addicting.

My grandmother is a card dealer, my mother is a bartender at a gamer’s bar, and many of my other family members work at casinos in some aspect. My exposure to this world has made me numb to the obscure facts about where its profitability comes from: the addiction of others.

Casinos knowingly train a person into acquiring a gambling addiction to secure profit. They intentionally give benefits that are designed to persuade people to gamble more. Customers are also allowed to play on credit, meaning that even if they do not have enough money they still can gamble.

The public is often blind to the extent of the industry’s lucrative nature.

The American Gaming Association published that the commercial gaming industry brought in $40.28 billion in gaming revenue in 2017, a 3.4 percent increase over 2016. In 2017, states received $9.23 billion in revenue from commercial gaming taxes alone, and 20 commercial casino states experienced revenue increases in 2017.

These numbers might entice me to view the gambling industry as viable, but then I remind myself about the human cost that these profits entail.

The Guardian published an article titled  Revealed: how gambling industry targets poor people and ex-gamblers, which talks about how the gambling industry is using third-party companies to target specific demographics online, in particular, those with low incomes and histories with gambling addiction.

The article states that advertising companies “use a method called ‘dynamic retargeting’ to single out people who may not have gambled for a while and attempt to entice them to pick up the habit again. The intention behind this strategy is to luring back recovering addicts who have self-banned from these sites.”

Gambling establishments also target lower-income populations. When people are struggling, they often seek a quick way to solve their financial problems. Casinos and gambling businesses target these people by promising benefits in ways that make it difficult for desperate people to resist.

Companies overstep their bounds. The manipulative ways that the gambling industry decides to conduct their business is unethical. We cannot entirely blame the addict, as they are also a victim of the gambling industry exploiting addicts’ vulnerable position.

Gambling companies profit off of addiction while addicts suffer. We exclusively blame addicts even though they are consistently being targeted by companies who seek the profit that comes with their addiction.

There needs to be an ethical way the gambling industry can still make a profit without exploiting addiction.

Until then, the fact that gambling companies target vulnerable populations and addicts to exploit them for profit should be addressed on a larger scale. We cannot continue to simply marginalize addicts who are victim to a system that exploits their weaknesses.