A 2001 Congressional report, “The Effect of the Ready Availability of Slot Machines on Members of the Armed Forces, Their Dependents and Others” stated that slot machines had no negative effect on the morale or financial stability of US forces, their family members or civilian employees. However, the easy availability of gambling on US military bases, irrespective of the laws of the host countries, still causes concern in the US.
Revenue from the slot machines adds to the military Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) budgets and the dividends are presumably good. In 2005 one MWR facility in Japan spent US$280,000 on coinless slot machines, whilst another in the same country reported revenue of US$10 million. More recently the issues of underage gambling by recruits and lack of oversight to prevent problem gambling have been raised.
A bill now before Congress proposes to outlaw gaming machines on US military installations. The new legislation would ban slot machines and video gaming devices from all U.S. military installations, effectively shutting down overseas military gambling. State lottery ticket sales and charitable events would be exempt from the ban but Rep Lincoln Davis, a Democrat from Tennessee calls the measure ‘a way to protect troops from a dangerous and addictive pastime.’
In 2006 the Army’s MWR gaming machines made nearly US$94 million and the income from all overseas military slots totalled over US$120 million. A defence spokesman said that the military does offer services for problem gamblers and that the gaming machines provide a controlled alternative to unmonitored host nation gambling machines. Payouts are said to be higher than at typical US casinos.
A study of gambling by military personnel shows that up to 2% could be described as pathological gamblers, twice the US average. According to researchers this is probably because many troops are A-Type personalities – drawn to adventure and taking risks – and therefore more prone to gambling disorders. As yet no date has been set for hearings on the proposed legislation. (E-02.01.08)
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