Gambling causes criminality

Prime Minister Dr Rowley - ROGER JACOB
Prime Minister Dr Rowley - ROGER JACOB


I HAVE visited Las Vegas – the megalopolis of gambling – and, closer to home, Atlantic City. While I am not a gambler per se (I was there on business), in Las Vegas I was fascinated and enthralled by the ambiance of the city and the big-name entertainers who played there year-round, such as Michael Jackson, Madonna and David Copperfield. However, I was not beguiled by the allure of bells and lights of their one-armed bandits, who beckoned to me as I strode through the gambling halls on my way to their top-notch restaurants.

But right here at home, did TT inadvertently cause a rise in crime by introducing legal gambling some 50-odd years ago under the Eric Williams PNM government? While some may view gambling as a harmless pastime, gambling is seen by psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health professionals as addictive, socially destructive, and eventually the cause of profound antisocial behaviour.

“The behaviour leads to problems for the individual, families and society. Adults and adolescents with gambling disorders have trouble controlling their gambling. They will continue even when it causes significant problems” – American Psychiatric Association.

“Gambling can cause low self-esteem, stress, anxiety and depression if gambling becomes a problem. Gambling can become an addiction, just like drugs or alcohol, if you use it compulsively or feel out of control. Gambling can affect the part of our brain that releases dopamine” – Mental Health Foundation.

“Science explains this propensity. The (US) National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted research into the development of the human brain in the 1990s. The NIH researchers found that the human brain is already 90 per cent of its adult size by the age of six. By the age of 12, the human brain is the same size as an adult brain.

“Development is far from complete at age 12, though. Myelin, the 'white part of the brain,' still is nowhere near adult levels. Myelin insulates neurons while increasing the speed of axons. Essentially, the brain synapses are not at full strength and efficiency, so they are not used as much as an adult would use them.

“Thus, until the age of 25, the human brain is much more likely to develop good and bad habits. Twenty-five is the average age of maturity, so some people’s brains mature at 21, while others’ brains mature at 29. In short, science provides evidence that people in the 18-29 age group are more likely to exhibit reckless behaviour in general, meaning they’re also more likely to develop bad habits while gambling” –

In June 2021, the PNM Government under Dr Rowley updated the gambling law to introduce a gambling regulator – “lawmakers in Trinidad and Tobago approved the Gambling Control Bill of 2021. A total of 24 senators voted in favour of the bill, including the nine independent senators. The six opposition senators abstained” –

Did any of these parliamentarians research the adverse effects that putting legalised gambling into the public domain would have on the population, especially the addictiveness of dopamine on teenagers? Did they consider how even the most minor win would shape these young minds to their and the nation’s detriment? Or was the flashing of millions of dollars of gambling revenue the only thing on their minds as they cast their "yay" vote?

So, what do you think now, parliamentarians? Are you going to admit you were wrong to facilitate gambling to entice young, impressionable minds so that they can go out and rob and kill to get funds to gamble in their dopamine and drug-induced haze? Or are you going to blame it on lack of enforcement when you were convinced that voting for a gambling regulator would make all gambling issues vanish into the ether?

Even the UNC opposition should be ashamed of themselves. Even though they abstained from the vote, why didn’t they have their voices heard loud and clear with an emphatically resounding and profound vote of "nay" to begin the process of shutting down the gambling industry, which would have been the best thing they could have done for this crime-diseased nation?

So, what’s the nation to do as we all hunker down in our castles, such as they are, hoping to live through the night to face another day when we cannot even trust the two major parties to protect us? Is there another party that will rise to challenge the status quo? Let us pray that there will be because this current crop of parliamentarians does not have our best interests at heart. The PNM and UNC are working long and hard to gain control of the treasury instead of doing what is best for the people.


"Gambling causes criminality"

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