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U.S. military-run slot machines earn $100 million a 12 months from service members abroad : NPR

U.S. military-run slot machines earn $100 million a 12 months from service members abroad : NPR

2023-01-18 11:10:00

On this June 23, 2021 photograph, a row of slot machines sit empty at Bally’s on line casino in Atlantic Metropolis N.J.

Wayne Parry/AP

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Wayne Parry/AP

On this June 23, 2021 photograph, a row of slot machines sit empty at Bally’s on line casino in Atlantic Metropolis N.J.

Wayne Parry/AP

The U.S. army runs greater than 3,000 slot machines on American army bases abroad despite the fact that the speed of downside gamblers within the army is regarded as round twice that of the remainder of the final inhabitants, in line with the Nationwide Council on Downside Playing, a corporation that advocates for companies to help individuals and households affected by downside playing.

The slot machines, operated by the U.S. Division of Protection, earn the DOD greater than $100 million annually within the identify of “morale, welfare, and recreation” for service members, in line with a report by the Authorities Accountability Workplace that was written in response to demands from Congress.

Slots are sometimes discovered on bases the place there may be treasured little to do, like Diego Garcia – a 12-sq.-mile island within the Indian Ocean with a inhabitants of simply over 4,000 individuals – the place the Navy runs 52 slot machines. And they are often performed by service members as younger as 18 – people who would not be allowed to enter most casinos within the U.S. earlier than they flip 21.

Slots have had a contentious historical past within the army

In 1951, Congress banned slot machines from home army bases after passing laws to that impact. 20 years later, the Military and Air Drive eliminated them from all overseas bases as effectively, solely to revive the overseas slot machines within the Nineteen Eighties. The army’s final accounting in 2017 confirmed that the machines are positioned on bases in 12 international locations– largely run by the Military.

The machines are managed by the MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation) teams of the respective army branches, which purport to “ship high-quality, customer-focused packages and companies that contribute to resiliency, retention, readiness and high quality of life.”

A Pentagon report within the early 2000s claimed that with out the slot machines, the MWR teams wouldn’t be capable to afford different facilities for army members reminiscent of golf programs and household exercise facilities. DOD spokeswoman Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman echoed that argument, telling NPR the machines “contribute considerably to the non-appropriated fund and lots of different recreation and leisure abroad packages.”

It is tough to know the precise variety of downside gamblers amongst service members because the army stopped screening for it greater than a decade in the past and has solely resumed screening following the 2017 GAO report. Nonetheless, a 2008 study of 31,000 Air Force recruits discovered that 6.2% exhibited among the vital behaviors to be deemed downside gamblers. A 2016 study on the experiences of returning veterans discovered that 4.2% have been at-risk or downside gamblers after getting back from deployment. Taking this and different research into consideration, the Nationwide Council on Downside Playing conservatively estimates that 4% of army personnel meet the standards for reasonable to extreme playing issues – twice the nationwide common.

“Every little thing we learn about army personnel — that they are usually younger, male, risk-takers, more likely to be affected by increased charges of substance abuse, stress, melancholy, PTSD or traumatic mind accidents — is conclusively correlated with downside playing,” Keith Whyte, govt director of the NCPG, instructed NPR.

Whereas deployed abroad, service members are sometimes remoted, separated from family and friends and obtain elevated pay. For these searching for recreation on base, slot machines are sometimes only a fast stroll away.

Congress has tried to step in

In 2018, lawmakers from each events stated they believed the variety of downside gamblers within the army might probably pose a menace to nationwide safety, making service members inclined to blackmail and creating impediments to safety clearances.

However laws launched by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., to curb this menace and supply assist to these battling playing habit by no means made it into regulation.

Some particular person veterans, together with these affected by playing habit, say they view the machines as a method in what some within the army name “hurt discount” – the concept that playing on base may preserve somebody from doing so off base, the place the chances could also be worse and the stakes could also be increased.

“I spent hours in entrance of the slot machines on base and normally left plus or minus $50,” Ed Grabowski, Navy veteran, instructed NPR. “I do not see the place that’s actually going to create a problem. I might drop $50 in a pinball machine.”

However there are few – if any – research that counsel that service members are higher off enjoying slots on base than playing elsewhere.

“From a playing standpoint, there isn’t a information to say that slot machines are a type of hurt discount,” Dr. Timothy Fong, co-director of UCLA’s Playing Research program, instructed NPR.

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Fong stated he’s targeted on how these machines are regulated. “My concern is that they’re managed by the DOD – not by a public well being establishment or by teams that regulate gaming,” he stated.

Fong stated he has met energetic obligation army members who’ve developed playing addictions partly due to quick access to fit machines on base. For Fong, some of the harmful features of playing addictions is that they aren’t publicly apparent like different addictions.

The NCPG’s Whyte agrees, noting that with out some kind of reasonable alert system or restrict on playing “the primary indicators of habit are sometimes different offenses like theft, fraud, going AWOL, [and] conduct issues” – all offenses that would result in a dishonorable discharge.

Usually, by the point playing habit is found, it is likely to be too late.

Aaron Walsh, an Military Apache pilot, misplaced $20,000 to the Military’s slot machines in South Korea, resigned to keep away from a court docket martial and finally dedicated suicide.

“I am indignant. That was a life misplaced needlessly because of the army’s failure to take downside playing significantly, and there are extra of these tales,” Whyte stated.

The federal government has tried to take steps to handle the problem, together with by the Division of Veterans Affairs, which runs a program in Brecksville, Ohio, for veterans and energetic obligation personnel battling downside playing. Individually, the annual private well being evaluation for all energetic obligation army members now consists of three well being screening questions aimed toward figuring out playing addictions.

The Protection Division says it has “intensive controls in place to reduce potential abuse by limiting hours of operation, limiting entry to machines, limiting the variety of machines in places, limiting amount of cash performed and limiting the potential winnings.”

Controls by themselves could not all the time be sufficient when entry to slots are simply steps away.

Army veteran Dave Yeagar says when he arrived at Yongsan Military Base South Korea proper after Sept. 11, 2001, he did not have a playing downside. He says that even whereas residing close to Atlantic Metropolis, N.J., he was not tempted to play within the base’s slots room like he was on base in South Korea.

“I discovered myself in there 7 days every week. … The draw of these rooms and the way straightforward it’s to get to them is plenty of what led to my habit creating,” he instructed NPR, including there was little oversight again then.

“There have been actually days that I might go in there when the slot room opened on a Saturday morning and go away when it closed. No one got here as much as me and stated, ‘You’ve got been right here too lengthy.’ No one. Nothing,” he stated.

Yeager, who now mentors energetic obligation members with playing addictions, says he hasn’t heard that something has modified.

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