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Internet becoming key tool for anti-gambling movement

WASHINGTON (BP)–In the same way anti-tobacco forces used subpoena power to prove that tobacco companies knew their products were addictive, the same strategy also may be prove effective with the gambling industry, according to testimony posted on the Internet site of the nation’s leading anti-gambling organization.
“We believe that documents exist which prove that the leaders of the gambling industry are also fully aware of the nature of their product,” Bernard Horn, communications director for the Washington-based Coalition Against Legalized Gambling (NCALG), said while testifying before the National Gambling Impact Study Commission last August.
Horn’s complete testimony is one of many resources NCALG offers via its site on the Internet’s World Wide Web. The site — ncalg.org — is among a growing number of websites in which anti-gambling groups can garner much-needed resources as they combat the expansion of legalized gambling in America.
“They know that many of their customers suffer from gambling addiction, a medically recognized mental disorder,” Horn testified. “They know that a huge percentage of their profits are earned from gambling addicts. And they respond by designing gambling games and establishments in ways to encourage and exploit this addiction.”
NCALG offers free fact sheets, article excerpts from national publications, statistics, poll results and quotes from noted experts. Perhaps just as importantly, the organization’s website provides e-mail addresses and telephone numbers for President Clinton, Vice President Gore, every member of Congress, and major news media outlets ranging from Newsweek to Rush Limbaugh, additionally giving tips on how to write effective letters to legislators and the news media.
NCALG also states it will provide research and technical and fund- raising support to state groups battling the expansion of gambling.
The site is interactive as well (e-mail at [email protected]).
Over the past two years, NCALG and its affiliates have beaten the gambling industry in statewide gambling referenda in Florida, Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming, Rhode Island and Minnesota. The organization also has scored legislative victories in 27 states during the same period.
The gambling industry, meanwhile, maintains more than a dozen websites, yet “despite massive efforts by the gambling promoters, only one state legalized casinos or slot machines in 1995-96,” NCALG stated in one of its website press releases.
Among other NCALG goals noted on its website:
— Fighting for a new federal law to curtail gambling mania. (In 1974 $17 billion was legally wagered in the United States. By 1995 it was over $500 billion.)
— Reaching out to other national, state and local groups for support, especially in the fields of retail business, entertainment, mental health and law enforcement.
— Acting as a clearinghouse through its National Information Center and anti-gambling Internet site.
NCALG is not the only Internet site where anti-gambling groups can secure resources. The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission offers an anti-gambling resource catalogue, tapes, pamphlets and other resources for a minimal cost. For example, church bulletin inserts are six cents each, while posters are 95 cents. The commission also offers free fact sheets and a sermon, “Gambling is Covetousness,” based on Exodus 20:17.
Anti-gambling groups in individual states are discovering the power of the internet as well. One such group, Oklahomans Against Casinos (OAC), launched its own website — www.no-casinos.org — prior to the Feb. 10 statewide referendum on legalized gambling. The site included quotes from the state’s political leaders who oppose casinos, anti-gambling editorials from newspapers from around the state and a list of more than 100 state lawmakers who oppose legalized gambling.
“Today’s technology offers a powerful means of communicating with voters,” State Rep. Forrest Claunch, OAC chairman, told the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger prior to the Feb. 10 referendum. He cited a recent study by Georgia Tech researchers which shows 92 percent of Internet users are registered voters, and exit polling data indicates 25 percent of voters are on-line.

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  • Don Hinkle