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On the Edge of a Gambling Boom

Our state and nation are on the precipice of the biggest gambling expansion in history. NC Family has been sending out numerous alerts in recent weeks and months about multiple bills in the state legislature that would expand various gambling practices in North Carolina. One of the most dangerous of these is SB 688, which would legalize sports gambling for professional, collegiate, amateur, and electronic sports. This bill passed the State Senate two weeks ago, and awaits action in the State House.

“Teetering on the Edge: Gambling in NC,” an article in the upcoming edition of NC Family’s Family North Carolina magazine, focuses on gambling expansion in our state. Attorney and gambling expert Chris Derrick authored this piece for Family North Carolina, and he joins Traci DeVette Griggs on this week’s episode of the Family Policy Matters radio show and podcast to discuss his article and the dangerous growth on the horizon for the predatory practice of gambling.

The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) is the premiere authority on gambling practices and statistics in our nation. This year, the NCPG released its first major national research study on gambling since 1999. This survey found that our nation is on the threshold of the biggest expansion of legalized gambling in its history. “And the reason they say that,” says Derrick, “is the legalization of sports betting that’s going on across the country.”

“The legalization of statewide sports betting is a huge concern,” he continues. “That’s because sports betting is no longer simply placing a bet on the outcome of your favorite team’s game this weekend; it’s a literally a non-stop, daily form of gambling […] [NC SB 688] would make every home in North Carolina a potential sports-bet casino.”

The proponents of gambling expansion often argue that enterprises like the lottery and sports betting provide great revenue and prosperity for our state, but Derrick says don’t be fooled. “The facts show that where states authorize commercial gambling, all taxpayers—including non-gamblers—end up paying higher taxes for fewer services, and their state ends up with worse budget problems over the long term.”

Tune in to Family Policy Matters this week to hear attorney Chris Derrick discuss the potential and dangerous gambling boom in North Carolina.

Also, be on the lookout for the latest edition of Family North Carolina magazine, which will be hitting mailboxes in the next couple of weeks. This edition will also be available for electronic download on our Family North Carolina webpage soon.

Family Policy Matters
Transcript: On the Edge of a Gambling Boom

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. I hope you’ve been watching as the North Carolina Legislature is grappling with legalizing sports gambling in our state. NC Family has been writing quite a few email updates on this recently. Interestingly, in our culture where almost every issue is polarized along party lines, this is one that has supporters and opponents on both sides of the political aisle.

Attorney Chris Derrick joins us today to talk about this and a wide range of issues surrounding gambling. Chris has a long history on this issue, back as far as his work assisting Focus on the Family’s Dr. James Dobson when Dr. Dobson was on the bipartisan National Gambling Impact Commission, which released its hallmark report in 1999, much of which is still relevant for today.

Chris wrote an article for us published in the upcoming edition of NC Family’s magazine Family North Carolina. Chris Derrick, welcome to Family Policy Matters.

CHRIS DERRICK: Thank you, Traci. It’s great to be back with y’all.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: We hear so much in support of legalized gambling enterprises out there in the public square. It sounds reasonable on the face of it, but remind us very quickly why increasing the face of gambling in our state is detrimental to the vulnerable and to our families.

CHRIS DERRICK: Well, decades of research have shown that the more prevalent legalized gambling is in whatever form it may be, the more citizens there are that will gamble. And of those who do, a significant percentage—anywhere from three to five percent—will become problem gamblers. And there are very high correlations between problem gambling and criminal activity, job loss, bankruptcy, homelessness, domestic violence and divorce, and even suicide. In fact, the National Institute of Health, they have a study that shows that at least one out of every 20 Americans have had their lives turned upside down because of commercial gambling. So legalized gambling comes with a very high price tag, and it’s something that has to be factored in whenever you’re considering expanding the presence of gambling in a state like North Carolina.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So in other words, even though we may not personally know anyone who has gambled—say bought a lottery ticket and become addicted—we’re talking about what’s best as far as public policy for our state, right? Which is actually kind of a different thing.

CHRIS DERRICK: Well, that is, and it’s not. I mean, you have to take into consideration what happens to the vulnerable and you also have to take into consideration, are there any benefits coming to the state that actually flow from that and offset those bad factors that gambling brings in? You know, the sports bill is a good example of that sort of interplay. Its proponents say that people are betting on sports already, so let’s legalize it so the General Assembly can at least get a cut of the money. But sports betting, if it were to become legal under that bill that the Senate just passed, the state would only get about eight percent of the revenues generated, and it’s the operators of the gambling enterprises like DraftKings and FanDuel who be pocketing the real money.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Let’s talk a little bit more about that sports gambling bill then. So, should we be surprised there are some prominent Republicans that are pushing this?

CHRIS DERRICK: Maybe not; gambling is one of those issues that interestingly doesn’t always fall directly on party lines. So, you’ll have Republicans that are interested in doing anything to sort of bring in revenues. And then you’ll have a number of Republicans that’ll oppose on social issues—on a basis of social factors, like I just mentioned. But you’ll also have Democrats that are concerned for the very same reason, for the impact it has and can have on low-income folks. A good example is with respect to the lottery. You have to think about the fact that the North Carolina lottery generated $3 billion in revenues last year, but you have to ask, where did that money come from? A state-run lottery is actually the most regressive form of taxation that there is, and study after study has shown that it’s lower income folks who are funding the overwhelming majority of lottery collections. For that reason, you’ll get a lot of Democrats will come back behind in thinking through, “Who does this impact if you increase gambling?” and they’ll often oppose it on those reasons.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: When you mentioned the trade-off, that there are some good things that the state might get right, from legalizing gambling—which of course we hear a lot from those out in the public square—but I think I’m hearing you say that the trade-off is just not enough to justify all the negatives that come with it.

CHRIS DERRICK: That’s right. For state-regulated enterprises like the lottery, or what would be with sports betting, it’s that justification that revenues can be used for great projects and things like that, and the state’s getting a cut of the revenues. But the facts show that where states authorized commercial gambling, all taxpayers, including non-gamblers, end up paying higher taxes for fewer services and their states end up with worse budget problems over the long-term. So that doesn’t always play out. And then when you add back in the social factors that we’ve mentioned, it becomes costly, I believe, for a state to further expand legalized gambling.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Well, let’s talk a little bit in general about first the relationship and interplay between the federal and state law when it comes to gambling, because that complicates everything doesn’t it?

CHRIS DERRICK: Well, it does. Generally, states are free to either permit or prohibit different forms of gambling, unless there’s a specific federal law that governs that particular form of gambling activity. A good example of how this works is with the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, and that law was a federal act that essentially banned sports betting throughout the United States. But in 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court repealed that act, and when it did a number of states acted immediately to legalize sports betting in their home states. And so it’s an interesting interplay that also comes into play, and federal and state law really intersect with respect to Indian gambling. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act is the federal law that provides the means for tribes to operate casinos on tribal land. But the Act sets up a process whereby a tribe must first enter into a compact or contract with the governor of a state before a tribe can offer casino gambling in its state. That’s how the Cherokees ended up with a casino over 25 years ago in our state, by getting in place a compact with Governor Jim Hunt. Since that time, the Cherokees have expanded their gambling operations through new compacts with the governor and here in 2021, they’re running two gambling destinations in Cherokee and in Murphy that offer unlimited Las Vegas-style gambling, including sports betting.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Talk a little bit about the different elements or levels of gambling. Are some worse than others? Are some more addictive than others?

CHRIS DERRICK: The thing you have to keep in mind with respect to gambling and kind of distinguish about the harms gambling can create is, what kind of gambling is it? And the things that affect that are really the proximity of the form of gambling; and then the speed with which the form of gambling allows you to play or to gamble. So, say you have a casino or a video sweepstakes parlor within an easy drive of your house; that’s concerning from a problem gambling standpoint. That’s because casino-style games such as slots or video poker move fast and they provide a quick outcome, and you can then immediately play again and that feeds the gambling high, meaning that these types of games are more addictive in nature.

And for the same reasons, though, the legalization of statewide sports betting is a huge concern. That’s because sports betting is no longer simply placing a bet on the outcome of your favorite team’s game this weekend; it’s a literally a non-stop, daily form of gambling and bets can be placed on anything from college sports to pro sports to even electronic sports. This form of gambling now is something that can be constant and repeated quickly. If the sports betting bill passes in North Carolina, to say that it would be readily available would really be an understatement. There’ll be no need to travel off to Cherokee or to Vegas to sports gamble; you’ll be able to legally bet from the convenience of your own home. And at the end of the day, the bill would make every home in North Carolina a potential sports-bet casino. That’s why it’s interesting that the National Council on Problem Gambling came out with a recent survey on gambling in the United States, and they say that we’re really on the threshold of, or starting the biggest expansion of legalized gambling in the nation’s history. And the reason they say that is the legalization of sports betting that’s going on across the country. And it’s fueling the unprecedented explosion in gambling and problem gambling that we’re going to see in the United States coming up.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Right. And I think people may not really realize—I appreciate you bringing that up about sports gambling—because with the advent of all these computers and electronically being able to place bets, you can actually bet on if somebody’s going to make the next basket in basketball. You’re right, it is minute by minute. And that makes it more addictive, doesn’t it?

CHRIS DERRICK: That absolutely does. The speed with which you can play, and it’s quick; it’s easy as punching a button now to place a bet.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Is it encouraging that gambling does not fall along party lines, as far as those who oppose gambling? Do we have an opportunity here then to talk to our representatives in a way that we might not if this issue fell more along party lines?

CHRIS DERRICK: I think we do; I think that it gives us an opportunity. For example, with the sports betting bill, we’ve got a chance to push back on that. If you’re against this sort of thing, the expansion of gambling, I believe that whether your representative is a Republican or a Democrat, they will listen to you on this issue. So, we’ve got a great opportunity to fight back on this, even though it’s passed the Senate. And to fight the sports bill, you can contact your State House Member through NC Family’s Action Center, which is a great way to go in getting your message out to your House Member.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: And I would remind people that if they are not getting the emails from NC Family Policy Council, at they can sign up for those. We frequently send out alerts when there are important things happening in the legislature, and easy ways to contact your representatives on those issues.

We’re just about out of time for this week, but before we go, a reminder that our guest today, Chris Derrick, has written an in-depth article on gambling for the most recent edition of our magazine, Family North Carolina. That will be available online at very soon, or if you’ve signed up to receive them, you should be getting your copy of that magazine in your mailbox soon.

Chris Derrick, thank you so much for being with us today on Family Policy Matters.

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