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Gamblings not family entertainment

TWO VIEWS • Would proposed nontribal casino in Wood Village be a mistake?

Is gambling, once termed a vice, becoming 'family entertainment'? Casino-style gambling has established itself as an economic presence. But has it Ñ in Oregon, anyway Ñ established itself as an accepted, social presence? And should there be a legitimized presence of off-reservation gambling in American society? If the answer is yes, does that mean we have changed what gambling is, or are we merely reconsidering what it can 'do' for us?

Traditionally, gambling has been grouped with lesser vices: alcohol use, tobacco use, illicit sex and the use of illegal drugs. But like those, it carries high social costs.

Five percent of those exposed to gambling develop a gambling problem. And in this state, at least, the Oregon Lottery steers problem gamblers to treatment funded by a share of lottery revenue, in a sort of sanitized, state-administered bandage of unassailable Samaritanism.

So what has changed? The most that used to be said in support of legal gambling was that it detracted from illegal gambling. But now casino-style gambling is being advertised as an adjunct of 'family entertainment.'

Two hopefuls from Lake Oswego would like to turn the former Wood Village greyhound racetrack into a family-oriented casino combo. Part of the proposed structure would be dedicated to 'family entertainment' and the remainder to casino-style gambling.

There is a vast difference between a remote, destination-resort gambling casino and an urban one. The former usually has other activities such as skiing, golfing or boating nearby. But the urban casino is there only for gambling, advertise it however you will. And money spent at a casino in Wood Village would be money not spent elsewhere in east Multnomah County.

Misnomers and euphemisms abound, but note the progression of terms: What used to be gambling became gaming, then gaming-entertainment and now the seductive sobriquet 'family entertainment.' It's hard to miss the progression toward acceptance.

The allure for the politicians is obvious: easy money. The allure for gamblers is the same: 'Hope' is four-for-a-dollar at the 25-cent slots.

But the well-known association of criminal activities and casino environments should worry people, as should the potential for political corruption and the ripple effect of compulsive gambling.

We've all heard that gambling is regressive. That means that the poorer among us who gamble lose a disproportionate share of their incomes.

Gambling Ñ or gaming or gaming-entertainment Ñ is an industry dedicated to selling illusion. Some have said that the illusions begin before the casino doors even open. Think what the word illusion denotes. Something you think is there but is not really there.

Sucker bet! Let's find another way.

K.R. Bents lives in Troutdale.