NATIONAL GAMBLING IMPACT STUDY COMMISSION
Mr. Robert -- and how do you pronounce your last name?
MR. DETLEFSEN: Detlefsen, Madame Chairman.
CHAIRPERSON JAMES: Detlefsen.
MR. DETLEFSEN: Yes, I'm Robert Detlefsen, and I'm a Senior Research Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a nonprofit, public policy research organization based here in Washington.
Madame Chairman, in your opening statement at this Commission's first meeting last June, you reminded your fellow Commissioners and the public that the Commission's job is to focus narrowly on the economic and sociological effects of legalized gambling. As for the moral issues raised by gambling, you expressed your hope that the religious community would begin a dialogue on that subject.
Congress was correct, of course, to limit the scope of this Commission's inquiry to empirical questions, but as it attempts to follow that mandate, this Commission runs the risk of overemphasizing those aspects of gambling that readily lend themselves to the quantitative research methodologies favored by modern social scientists.
Indeed, that tendency is already reflected in the Research Subcommittee's proposed study questions that were distributed at yesterday's session. The questions are overwhelmingly concerned with such things as "the measurable costs of problem gambling," the "quantifiable costs and benefits of gambling," and the "effect of gambling establishments on levels of employment and unemployment in a geographic region."
Such topics dominate the subcommittee's proposed research agenda not just because they are important, for there is no denying that they are, but also because we are conditioned by modern social science to ignore phenomena that do not lend themselves to counting and measuring.
Unfortunately, this bias may cause us to overlook the importance in human affairs of such things like individual freedom and personal responsibility because it is difficult to quantify the value that human beings derive from being free to behave in accordance with their own singular tastes and values.
Nevertheless, Madame Chairman, I would respectfully urge you and your fellow Commissioners to bear in mind that ours is a country that is admired around the world for its embrace of personal freedom and individual rights, and to recognize that these quintessentially American values are threatened in the current debate over legalized gambling.
The National Gambling Impact Study Commission should begin from the premise that in a free society the government bears a heavy burden to justify restrictions on personal behavior. This is especially so with respect to activities that most citizens regard as benign and unobjectionable. Far from being an aberrant form of behavior, legalized gambling is a popular pastime that is enjoyed by millions of Americans. Last year 32 percent of American households visited a casino and 69 percent of adults reported playing the lottery.
Whether certain business interests might be disadvantaged by the advent of casinos, whether state and local governments profit sufficiently from commercial gambling enterprises, and whether some people exercise their freedom to gamble in ways that many of us would regard as unwise or irresponsible are all matters that deserve the careful scrutiny of this Commission.
CHAIRPERSON JAMES: Mr. Detlefsen, I have to ask you to stop at that point and would suggest that the remainder of your comments will be entered into the record and made available to all of the Commissioners.
MR. DETLEFSEN: Thank you.
CHAIRPERSON JAMES: And thank you for being here.
MR. DETLEFSEN: Thank you, Madame Chairman.
CHAIRPERSON JAMES: Thank you.