NATIONAL GAMBLING IMPACT STUDY COMMISSION
MR. LEN MUNSIL
CHAIRPERSON JAMES: Len Munsil?
MR. MUNSIL: Len Munsil.
CHAIRPERSON JAMES: Len Munsil, thank you.
MR. MUNSIL: Madam Chair, members of the Commission, my name is Len Munsil. I'm an attorney and president of the Center for Arizona Policy, which is a non-profit public policy group that represents thousands of Arizona families. I want to speak to you today, though, not as a lawyer or as a lobbyist but as a father and as a third generation Arizonan, as someone who was raised in this wonderful state before it became entangled in the disruptive, corrupting culture of gambling and I do mean gambling not gaming.
Words matter and renaming an issue does not change its essential character. In the dictionary a game is defined as an activity engaged in for amusement or diversion but the definition of gamble uses words like speculation, risk and hazard. The millions of Americans who spent significant amounts of their hard-earned money yesterday on the Power Ball, some standing in line for hours to put down their paycheck or savings, took a risk, they were not playing a game. They were not being amused.
Like others who regularly blow their paychecks or savings at casinos, they gambled and they lost. Gambling money corrupts everything that it touches. The people are corrupted, the work ethic is destroyed as we accept the lie that financial freedom is just one bet away. Politicians are corrupted by this issue as we learned here in Arizona during Az-Scam. The industry itself has a record of corruption that is unparalleled. Even the media is corrupted. Supposedly objective news reporters now become cheerleaders for winning lottery numbers.
And can we real expect fair coverage of the problems of gambling when casinos are paying for the traffic plane. It seems that half of Arizona is now sponsored by a casino. Our preschool children here know the casino jingles as well as the Barney theme song. In the course of this work you will hear many statistics. You'll hear about higher rates of bankruptcy and suicide, of family breakups, embezzlements and other crimes. Please remember that behind every statistic is a human life, a family and friends who cared.
The young ASU student who took his life last year over gambling debts had a family. The woman who left her infants in her car as she gambled for hours in an Arizona casino had children who needed her. A culture that relentlessly promotes gambling will, of course, create more of these social problems but if we don't have casinos, as we didn't in Arizona for our first eight decades of statehood, there will be fewer bankruptcies, fewer crimes, fewer suicides and fewer families shattered by gambling addiction as you've already heard today.
Law, by definition, provides a dividing line between right and wrong conduct. When an activity produces minimal good and great social harm, it can be restricted. That is why we have no free market in heroin or child pornography and that is why for most of our nation's history, gambling has been prohibited in most places, severely regulated in others, and almost universally discouraged as a destructive vice. So on behalf of Arizona families, I would ask that your recommendations and your conclusions promote a return to that sensible approach to the problem of gambling. Thank you very much.
CHAIRPERSON JAMES: Thank you.