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California is notoriously strict on gambling and has been reluctant to adopt new regulation in wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision to repeal the sports gambling ban. It is clear, however, that there is huge financial incentive in relaxing gambling guidelines and allowing casinos to move back in wholesale - this is demonstrated by the $400m state revenue Indian casinos generate every year. What is the cost of harnessing this opportunity?

Liberalized Gambling

The economic benefits of gambling are clear, but the ethics of the situation are more of a gray area.

The economic benefits of gambling are clear, but the ethics of the situation are more of a gray area. That being said, research and responsible measures are arguably making headway in turning casino usage into a ‘safe’ pastime. Finding the right balance will ensure a progressive tilt on any liberalization, and lead to the ultimate answer.

Understanding the function of gambling

Any legislative decision on the type and level of casino gambling allowed must be conducted in the context of science. The pull of casinos is, on face value, in the attraction of earning a fortune. In reality, nobody has a realistic expectation of ‘winning big’ and instead play for the thrill; any win will activate the brain’s reward complex and provide a rush of exhilaration in stark contrast to the risk. As a result, there is a direct connection between the brain, hormones and chemicals, and the act of gambling. This has led researchers at UCLA to find that gambling addiction is a brain disease as opposed to a psychological or mental condition. Understanding that is crucial in the first step to responsibly implementing casinos in LA again.

The impact on LA communities

Gambling is a voluntary activity, but is one of the most straightforward ways to create an addiction. While this would not be an issue if all gambling institutions acted ethically, it was found by a 2018 study that 35-40% of revenue comes from problem gamblers. That is, people who are struggling to control their habit providing revenue to the casinos.

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There is no legal recourse - as far back as 2011, courts did not find gambling outfits have any responsibility to the gambler, according to the Cleveland Metro. In response, community initiatives are key. This is already seen in California, where the OPG have interactions in the community.

How gambling can be leveraged 

Gambling can absolutely be a boon to the economy. Las Vegas on its own brings in almost $60bn in tourism revenue, according to TripAdvisor. This could be the case with California, where, once upon a time, the Sunset Strip hosted a wealth of glitzy casinos. However, it’s essential that this is done in a spirit where the casinos are willing to ethically look after their consumers and where community initiatives are upheld to preserve public health.

Liberalization of gambling laws could lead to a domino effect that will provide opportunities to improve the cash flow of LA. Doing so responsibly will require positive legislation to equip the city authorities and regulators with the tools they need to create ethical gambling. Relying on tourism, classy attractions and looking after everyone is the progressive way.

Cindy Trillo

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