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Gambling commission’s report will be ‘watershed,’ Dobson says

WASHINGTON (BP)–The National Gambling Impact Study Commission’s report “will be a watershed in the gambling debate,” panel member James Dobson says.
Writing to about 2.4 million constituents of the Focus on the Family ministry he heads, Dobson calls it a “credible report which I am pleased to endorse.”
The report, which calls for a moratorium on the expansion of gambling and recommends numerous other restrictions, will be released June 18 after two years of study. Dobson’s comments on the report are in his July newsletter, which Focus on the Family made available in advance to Baptist Press.
“Until now, there has been no reliable body of evidence on which policymakers and citizens could make rational, informed decisions regarding gambling,” he writes. “Grassroots organizations that opposed gambling have been overrun by the money and influence of its proponents.”
Not only does it seem “our culture has embraced gambling uncritically,” Christians, with “few notable exceptions,” have “not been exercised enough to resist this powerful wave,” Dobson says.
While Dobson admits the report “doesn’t provide all of the answers,” he is optimistic “if presented with the facts about gambling, Americans will begin to make decisions in the best interests of their communities and their families. It will be a long, hard battle — but one worth fighting — to reverse the course” is following.
Dobson includes in his monthly letter the two-page summary he wrote to be included in the commission’s report, something each member was permitted to do.
In his summary, Dobson says the panel’s “greatest legacy will be to change the way the American public thinks about the harms associated with gambling.”
Americans “must reject the fantasy that wagering is innocuous entertainment,” he writes.
The “illusion of pain-free riches promoted by the gambling industry has been exposed,” Dobson says in his summary. Gambling “is sown in greed and the exploitation of human weakness. It robs from the poor and exploits the most vulnerable.” It also undermines the work ethic, he says.
In his newsletter, Dobson criticizes a system that results in the industry and politicians exploiting citizens for gambling revenues and in the industry contributing large donations to political parties and politicians.
Despite gambling industry opposition to the commission’s creation as well as to Dobson’s appointment to the panel, the commissioners “managed to fulfill our mission.” he says. Though there were narrow majorities on some recommendations, there was unanimity on many. He “developed a genuine respect” for the eight other members and “consider[s] them to be my friends today,” Dobson writes.
Dobson was the most vocal gambling opponent on the panel, while three other members are, or have been, affiliated with the gambling industry.
Among the major recommendations of the more than 70 in the report are the moratorium, which passed by only a 5-4 vote; a ban on contributions to state and local political campaigns; a prohibition on wagering on collegiate and other amateur athletic events; a rollback on convenience gambling, such as video poker, in states where it is legal; a ban on Internet gambling, and a prohibition on all gambling for those under 21 years of age.
The NGISC has no authority to enforce its recommendations. Instead it is dependent on Congress, the president, the states and Indian tribes to bring life to their proposals. In many of the panel’s more than 70 recommendations, state legislatures are called on to act.
The report, which was called for in legislation adopted by Congress in 1996, will be the first national one on gambling since 1976.