In the months since I last posted comments on my blog, I’ve been working on a couple of new book projects that have nothing to do with gambling. They’re about African American women theater artists. I also spent time in Morocco in an intensive course in Arabic, a language for which I have a real passion.
But the problems that have been unleashed with the legalization and expansion of casino gambling are never far from my mind. In fact, just four days after I returned from spending six weeks in Fes, Morocco, on July 14, I presented my first professional paper at the National Conference on Gambling Problems in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
It was an eye-opening experience. Most of the presenters and participants were researchers or clinicians specializing in the treatment of gambling problems. Among the things I learned was how difficult it is to get anyone, not to mention African Americans and other people of color, to participate in the surveys researchers need in order to do the work they do, work that might one day affect policy decisions related to the expansion of gambling, especially internet gambling.
As I have mentioned previously when the rich and famous, including Gladys Knight, make headlines about their gambling problems, they can fall back on their money or their talent. Michael Phelps is already wealthy and will make millions more in endorsements.
But the people who are at most risk of losing everything at the gambling tables and slot machines, like the low-wage earning women of color who are the subject of the black-women-going-bankrupt headlines that are spreading around the blogosphere like a virus, rarely raise alarm.
I don’t want to make the mistake of attributing the appalling lack of wealth among African American women to gambling. The Women of Color Policy Network, which in August 2010, presented a paper titled “Disparities for Women of Color in Retirement,” to the U.S. Department of Labor, has very cogently argued that the lack of any kind of wealth among women of color has more to do with systemic inequalities of opportunity than anything else.
However, our politicians need to take a careful look at that report before they grant any more licenses to billionaire investors to build more casinos in our backyards. They also need to hear from some of the African American women who now make up the fastest growing population of problem gamblers. Maybe the women’s stories will help to persuade our politicians that we are now at a point of saturation with gambling in this country and that it’s causing more harm than good.
Sandra Adell, Author, CONFESSIONS OF A SLOT MACHINE QUEEN: A MEMOIR