North American News

After Vegas: Will Society ‘Blow the Whistle’ on Consequences of Runaway Gambling Addiction?

 By AWAKENING STAFF / News Analysis

Whatever people may think of the story of accused Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock, it’s come to light that he had heavily indulged in gambling.

So while Nevada police and federal authorities in the U.S. piece together a crime that they’re claiming Paddock carried out alone, a majority of Canadian and American media pundits, one way or another, have kept the narrative about that Oct. 1st Nevada shooting mainly or solely targeted on guns and gun laws, citing an apparent dangerous “addiction” by Paddock to the sport and sheer thrill of firing guns as well as to the pervasive U.S. “gun culture” associated with firearms usage.

Yet, gambling, more than guns sales, represents a major and steady source of tribal, municipal, state, provincial and national government revenue for Canada and the U.S., as well as jobs. But will gambling addiction and the downside of that multi-billion-dollar enterprise warrant a serious probe, on par with probing the issues surrounding firearms?

Here, we cannot help but think of U.S. Treasury and Internal Revenue Service documentation forms (CTRs) which are required whenever large amounts of money are expended on gambling. These very documents show that Paddock would expend $10,000 to $20,000 at a pop, or even more, when gambling in Las Vegas—a level of wagering that could induce extreme stress and anti-social behavior if and when losses begin to mount. And losses eventually would mount, because, in the end, the “House” always wins.

NBC reported on Oct. 3 that Paddock . . .

       “ . . . gambled with at least $160,000 in the past several weeks at Las Vegas casinos, according to senior law enforcement officials. There were 16 Currency Transaction Reports, or CTRs, filed for Paddock in recent weeks. The Treasury Department and the IRS mandate that casinos file the reports for ‘each transaction in currency involving cash-in and cash-out of more than $10,000 in a gaming day.’”

And we don’t need to consult “experts” or big media to know that gambling, like alcohol, can be relatively harmless unless and until the consumer crosses “the line.” And clearly many people lose sight of where that line is located, much less when to draw it. Big gambling debts can and do translate into an array of documented social ills—from alcoholism and drunk driving, to messy divorces and child-custody battles, kidnapping for ransom, business embezzlement, armed robbery, drug sales and abuse, assault, rape—and perhaps murder.

This is not, we repeat NOT, a rant against the gambling industry in general. In a world where even insurance is a refined form of wagering, gambling venues do have their place. Casino Rama, which also has a large hotel, is a major employer in the greater Orillia, Ontario area. The same can be said of gambling houses across the country, including the ones in Niagara Falls and Windsor, Ontario which have great food, beverages, quality entertainment and an overall pleasant atmosphere.

“Ditto” for both tribal and non-tribal casinos in Michigan and beyond in America. For example, the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan is the main gambling house of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.

That band also runs Michigan gambling houses in Hartford, Dowagiac and, soon, South Bend, Indiana. In its concert line-up, Four Winds has brought in big names like ZZ Top, Sheryl Crow, Rick Derringer, etc.—thereby filling a void, since former Midwestern concert venues at Notre Dame University and other locations aren’t what they used to be, if they sponsor major concerts at all.

Furthermore, the Firekeepers tribal casino near Battle Creek, Michigan also hosts big names, including the famed late comedian Don Rickles and countless others.

Point being—many of today’s large Casinos aren’t just about gambling. They’ve become multi-faceted entertainment venues for dining, drink, dancing,  concerts, hotel stays, gift shops and more—with the larger gambling houses employing hundreds if not thousands of people, directly and indirectly.

Take gambling out of Las Vegas, and the city, over time, might return to the desert from which it arose, like a river running dry. And if Casino Rama gets undercut by the Woodbine gambling complex a couple hours away near Toronto, where the lure of expanded table games might draw business away from “Rama,” then Orillia and vicinity could see a sizable dip in car sales, home purchases and rentals, downtown retail shopping—possibly with personal bankruptcy and foreclosures taking the place of sales.

But for some people, taking them away from a casino doesn’t mean you’ve taken the “casino” away from them, so to speak. So, when particularly serious cases of gambling addiction become evident, what’s the best way to expose it and “nip it in the bud” before it becomes a huge problem?

CASINO EMPLOYEES AS ‘EYES & EARS’

The “front line” for identifying individuals who may be at “wit’s end” over excessive gambling, logically and realistically, is casino employees hopefully with the cooperation of management. According to several television-news reports, the Vegas shooter gambled and drank heavily. When abused, just those two opiates alone can be highly problematic.

It stands to reason that bartenders, card dealers and others on the casino floor need to watch out for those customers whose behavior is erratic, generally hazardous or even aggressive—especially gamblers who are in the house too frequently to gamble for excessive time periods. There are confirmed reports of some Canadian casinos allowing people to gamble around the clock; gamblers are sometimes found sleeping in their cars, many having soiled themselves. At times, children and pets are also found locked in gamblers’ vehicles.

Meanwhile, the Awakening has yet to hear about Las Vegas police interviewing casino employees regarding Paddock. That naturally raises at least two essential questions:

  • Is the reputation of gambling in “Sin City” going to be deemed more important than preventing would-be assailants from going over the edge?
  • Is that going to be the outlook at gambling houses across North America?

It’s already well-established that when OLG (Ontario Lottery & Gaming, a government agency) spends lucrative amounts of ad money on media advertising, the Canadian media become, let’s just say, rather hesitant to report on the underbelly of gambling. Call it “buying silence,” although, to be fair, that may not be the motive.

Once thing is clear: From Casino Rama, to the Niagara casinos, to the other gambling houses across Canada and the U.S., a “Witness Protection Program” for Casino employees would seem to be in order.  However, the Awakening has learned over the last few years that even something as basic as casino-workplace safety hazards, along with the general abuse of casino employees by customers, are hard to resolve internally—because the workers who speak up are oftentimes ignored or labeled as the “troublemakers.”

In other words, those who “see something” rarely feel safe enough to “say something,” because their employer—despite government billboards in Ontario and elsewhere enticing people to report “trouble” wherever it may lurk—will most often put their reputation and cash-flow above safe havens for whistleblowers.

Ultimately,  would-be whistleblowers fear their jobs will be terminated if they speak up and thus are unlikely to break rank and report significant disturbances inside casinos.

The Awakening also knows of a casino employee who was terminated for exposing abuses and breaches of the law under the roof of a Canadian casino. That person later approached a Bell Media officer at the company’s Barrie station with information on what had happened, thinking that the situation regarding erratic, compulsive anti-social behavior at casinos would fit into Bell’s annual campaign against “Mental Illness.”  https://letstalk.bell.ca/en/ Bell Media officer Carole Taylor also was contacted in writing about this matter. There’s been no detectable response.

And if you’re thinking that casino workplace safety is easy enough to ignore, consider that the accused Vegas shooter, Mr. Paddock, who reportedly killed himself as the Oct. 2 shooting subsided, slipped and fell in a Vegas casino six years ago and lost over $30,000, which doesn’t exactly help with the “anger” and “rage” factor. The same NBC report noted that Paddock . . .

“. . . lost a slip-and-fall lawsuit against another Vegas casino, the Cosmopolitan Hotel. . . . Security video from the Cosmopolitan Hotel shows Paddock slipping and falling on Oct. 30, 2011, as he walked from a hotel shop toward a high-stakes area in the casino. Paddock said he had slipped in a puddle of liquid and sued the hotel in 2012, initially asking for $100,000, according to the attorney for the hotel, Marty Kravitz. Paddock reported incurring more than in $32,000 in medical bills, and also wanted to be paid for pain and suffering. Security video shows him getting medical attention and then being stretchered out of the casino. The arbitrator ruled in favor of the casino and dismissed allegations of negligence as [being] ‘without merit.’”

Moreover, remember that casinos have had their computerized internal records hacked—containing financial and Social Insurance data on employees, and data on registered customers.

Doesn’t that mean, in effect, that “the system” is “gambling” with people’s credit ratings and financial history whenever government investigators and casino management get together and say they are “looking into” data breaches but never seem to emerge with a final report? Don’t people have the right to know exactly how the data-breach happened and what’s being done to prevent it from recurring?

In a world where even Equifax was hacked—an entity assumed to be extra-secure, given its function of monitoring and compiling people’s financial data and credit ratings—the concerns being expressed here are hardly unfounded or exaggerated. Gambling has its place, but if its downside is ignored or minimized in pursuit of profit, purely for profit’s sake, that’s a gamble no society can afford in the long run.

WHEN GUNS ENTER A CASINO. . .

All this being said, also keep in mind that, back in June of this year, someone the authorities simply called “a demented person” opened fire inside a casino in the Philippines. According to Manila media, the armed assailant. . .

“. . . fired an automatic rifle inside a casino in the Philippine capital and triggered fears of a terrorist attack . . . . People ran screaming out of Resorts World Manila . . . after the man fired what police chief Ronald dela Rosa said was an M4 assault rifle and set fire to a gambling table about midnight. The gunman did not shoot anyone but disappeared into the chaos of smoke and running people, leading to a manhunt throughout the casino, hotel and shopping complex that ended just after dawn . . . . The man, who appeared to be acting alone, walked into one of the gambling rooms and fired the rifle at a large television screen, then poured gasoline onto a gambling table and set it alight.[The] man then fired again at a stock room containing gambling chips and filled a backpack with them. . . . The gunman had tried to steal 113 million pesos worth of gambling chips, although he left the backpack on the ground near the stock room.”

And while Manila police said they shot the gunman dead, it’s hard to kill the nagging feeling that, as wrong as it was, this man may have sunk so deep into the morass of gambling debt, that, in his own demented way, he decided that “payback time” had arrived. All the more reason for casinos to be aware of the ill effects gambling can have on some people, and to allow whistleblowers on the casino floor to spot and report warning signs early on without fear of reprisal, hence the need for a witness-protection arrangement, that might include a way to anonymously report problems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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