NATIONAL GAMBLING IMPACT STUDY COMMISSION
FIRST ON-SITE MEETING
FOURTH REGULAR COMMISSION MEETING
Wednesday, January 21, 1998
The meeting was held in the Atlantic City Convention Center, 2001 Kirkman Boulevard, Atlantic City, New Jersey, at 9:00 a.m., Kay C. James, Chairman, presiding.
KAY C. JAMES, Chairman
KENNETH LE FEVRE
P R O C E E D I N G S
CHAIRMAN JAMES: Good morning.
PARTICIPANTS: Good morning.
CHAIRMAN JAMES: Welcome to the fourth meeting of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission and, indeed, our first site visit.
I want to express my appreciation to the State of New Jersey and to the City of Atlantic City for the very warm welcome and assistance providing and setting up this visit.
Those who represent this community, from the Mayor and City Council President to the Casino Control Commission, to local union representatives, have worked very hard to insure that we would learn as much as possible about the story this city has to tell in a very short time.
For the benefit of those who are with us for the first time, I want to take just a moment to discuss the mission of this federal commission. Congress established the National Gambling Impact Study Commission to conduct a comprehensive and factual study of the social and economic impacts of legalized gambling on states, tribes, communities, and individuals. The members of this Commission were appointed by the President, the Speaker of the House, and Senate Majority Leader, and are representative of a number of very important and divergent perspectives.
At our last meeting in Washington, the Commission established an ambitious research agenda that focused on analyzing existing research on the impact of gambling, fostering new research into this area, and surveying those involved in the industry both as proponents and as opponents.
Also included was the Commission's desire to examine the issue of the problem of pathological gambling.
The National Research Council has already begun to analyze the scientific and other literature related to gambling, and additional research will shortly be underway.
We have a very short time frame in which to complete this study and report back to the President, Congress, state and tribal governments. Therefore, site visits, such as this first visit to Atlantic City, are critical to insure that this is not simply a federal effort based in Washington, but rather a serious examination of a serious matter that includes meeting those individuals who are most affected by legalized gambling.
Atlantic City is not only essential to that understanding, but it represents a unique opportunity to study the effects of legalized gambling over the past 20 years. There's a story to tell here in Atlantic City, and like any other story, I'm certain that is one that has both good and perhaps even some bad ones, but we're not here to judge or criticize the past 20 years, nor are we here to celebrate those times. Instead, we're here to learn first hand about the impact of legalized gambling upon this community and surrounding areas.
We're not here to tell you what gambling means to this community. Rather, we're hear today to listen to those who live here in this community and allow them to tell their story.
Our reception thus far has been very warm, very cordial, and indeed, very informative. As I said, many representatives of the community have been extraordinarily helpful in suggesting expert witnesses, site visits, and assisting in logistical arrangements.
Yesterday when I drove here from Philadelphia, I was pleased to see the Convention Center welcome signs at the toll booths and recognized the importance that the casinos have had even to the toll booth operator, who warmly welcomed us to this city.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit some of the individuals and businesses affected by gambling. At the Atlantic City Medical Center we viewed what has become a first rate, community-based health system, from a trauma center with some of the finest staff in this part of the state, and also a neonatal unit proudly boasting of its success, to high technology radiology equipment unseen in most primary care facilities anywhere.
While much of the credit here is due to the quality staff of the medical center, a great deal was accomplished because of the partnership the hospital has with the casinos through the Redevelopment Authority.
More importantly, I had the opportunity to talk to members of this community most affected by gambling, those who work in and around the casinos, those who -- we will spend a lot of time this week hearing from gambling experts and public officials, it is these individuals who understand what legalized gambling truly means to them and to their community.
These are the lives affected by our study, and their stories are as critical to our process as any others.
I want to thank Bob McDevitt, the President of Union Local 54, for giving me the opportunity to speak to some of these individuals. Many represent great stories of personal initiative, satisfaction, strong families, and hard work.
To them we pledge our commitment to listen and to work toward a study that includes their perspective.
Lastly, I want to recognize a group that will probably not be recognized today: the millions of men and women who come to Atlantic City each year as tourists and casino patrons. Some come here and experience the effects of legalized gambling only under the lights of the casino floor, but some come here and experience the impact of legalized gambling elsewhere, sometimes in small, unimportant ways, and sometimes in important ways like visits to that emergency room.
While the vast majority come here and leave as expected, some leave here coping with the unanticipated consequences of problem gambling. We will hear much about this tomorrow, but to those individuals, as well, we also pledge our commitment to listen and to work toward a study that recognizes the problems they face.
While we certainly understand politics, that's not why we're here today. I would encourage those who are quick to judge the Commission and its motives to do as we do and spend our time together listening and learning.
I want to, again, thank you for your hospitality, and we look forward to our time here in Atlantic City. It's been wonderful thus far, and I'm sure it will continue to be so.