Slot machines: agents of addiction?
Wed, Jan 19, 2011 (2:51 p.m.)
Illustration: Chris Morris
60 Minutes basically does two types of stories—three if you count whatever Andy Rooney hacks up at the end of each show. There’s the exposé, and there’s the fawning profile. The past two Sundays, that framework was turned on Las Vegas, with predictable results. First, the exposé: A January 9 segment took on slotmakers. Its central premise: that newer, high-tech slots are just too entertaining, leading to addiction. Before the segment’s most credible expert—the director of Harvard’s Division on Addictions—could utter a word, he was dismissed as “the man the gambling industry loves to quote.” Next up was an admiring January 16 profile of Billy Walters, who made a fortune beating bookmakers at their own game. Casinos lose, America wins—it’s a point Rooney himself made less subtly in May, when he asked, “Who’s best for this country—a machinist ... or a blackjack dealer?” But what 60 Minutes ignores is that the gaming industry does as much good as harm. It employs hundreds of thousands of Nevadans, pays its share of taxes and entertains millions of responsible bettors. Of course, a small minority will always struggle with addiction, but IGT is no more to blame for this than Coors is for alcoholism. As the Harvard expert tried to explain: addiction resides in the brain, not in the machine.