Having run a media outreach program to increase substance abuse awareness in minority communities, I am very aware of how the alcohol, tobacco, and gambling industries advertise and manipulate African-American, Latino, Asian, and even Native American populations. There are piles of research suggesting that carefully crafted messages have been plastered all over our communities to entice us to roll the dice, drink X brand of beer, or smoke . If you ever spend time in the ghetto, barrio, or Indian reservations, you will notice that there are plenty of advertisements for liquor and gambling establishments. Sometimes, they kill two birds with one stone in advertising a casino with an attractive man or woman holding a drink in one hand and dice or cards in the other. Some people in our communities make money working for these industries, no doubt there. But these businesses are a double edged swords in that many poor people get wrapped up in a life of addiction and misery because they gamble and/or drink their earnings away. I am in no way suggesting prohibition or shutting down the casinos. I think that people have a free choice to do what they want, but I would hope these establishments would be more careful in crafting and displaying their messages, especially around schools and in residential neighborhoods with young children.
Barack Obama has pointed out that there is “a moral and social cost of gambling” in low income communities, well duh! On the flip side, the Clinton camp has argued that the gambling industry is “economic development.”Of course it is, but can’t Team Clinton acknowledge that for many poor and middle income Americans (and by association Americans of color, Black, Latinos, Afro-Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans) gambling can have devastating consequences? Maybe if Hillary Clinton had visited the Commerce Casino or the Bicycle Club instead of King Taco, she could more closely observe what Barack Obama is referring to right here in California. The desperation in our communities makes the prospect of a quick and easy win enticing. We all want that piece of the American dream.
The other ironic thing about this issue is that Hillary Clinton is a follower of the Social Principles of the Methodist Church, which calls on Christians to abstain from gambling. How does she reconcile her church’s beliefs with her heavy ties to the gambling industry? I would expect this sort of dilemma from Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani, but not Hillary Clinton. Why did she even need to go there with the religion?
To prove my point, here are some resources about pathological gambling with some sobering statistics regarding the Hispanic community and youth populations: