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Ventura County Perspective

Harbor Casino Plan

March 04, 2001

Re "Casino Plan Is a Crapshoot," Ventura County editorial, Feb. 25.

Allowing a gambling casino to be developed at Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard would be devastating for the people of Ventura County. Gambling is a cancer that spreads rapidly, infecting the very fabric of families and communities.

Executives of Paragon Gaming, the Nevada gambling company pushing for approval of the project, say that allowing them to build and operate a major casino here would generate big bucks for the harbor and surrounding communities--like $18 million per year. It would create jobs and attract tourist dollars, they say.

Is it worth it? No way.

Along with the inflow of money would come an outflow of the quality lifestyle we all enjoy in Ventura County. Crime would rise. Families would become dysfunctional as people became compulsive gamblers. And the greatest losers would be the children of those dysfunctional families.

One study found that about one in every five gamblers eventually becomes a compulsive or pathological gambler. They account for more than $200 billion of casino revenues each year--about a third of total gambling revenues.

It's the kids who concern me most. Years ago, I worked as a counselor at Boys Town in Nebraska. The 97 boys in my charge came from family situations so bad they could no long live at home.

In most cases, their families became dysfunctional because the parents became addicted to alcohol, drugs or gambling. Many were serving prison time or otherwise institutionalized.

When gambling takes hold, people lose their sense of values. The gambler will go to any lengths to acquire more money for more gambling. And if that involves neglecting their kids, so be it.

I noticed the same pattern when serving as chairman of the Santa Barbara County Juvenile Justice Commission. Gambling is often the spark that ignites major family problems.

The time to cut off any consideration of allowing gambling casinos in Ventura County is now. This is also a good time to start the process of eliminating off-site gambling facilities in the county.

JIM WOODARD

Ventura

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