McKinney, Hwang Raise Awareness on the Perils of Gambling in Connecticut

March 11, 2014

Video of press conference

Video of Rep. Tony Hwang statements on CT Gambling

FAIRFIELD- State Representative Tony Hwang (R-134 Trumbull and Fairfield) and State Sen. John McKinney (R-28) along with Former 2nd District Congressman Robert Steele and the Executive Director of the CT Council on Problem Gambling Mary Drexler held a press conference Monday morning at Sacred Heart University to discuss National Problem Gambling Awareness Month and pending gambling legislation in the CT General Assembly this session.

The group moderated by Rep. Hwang discussed the economical and societal effects of gambling and its possible expansion in Connecticut including the greater Bridgeport region.

During the press conference, Senator John McKinney reviewed how the state passed the state lottery game KENO without any public hearing in the dead of the night of last year’s session. Currently, legislators are debating bills to repeal KENO in Connecticut.

Senator McKinney said, “I believe further expansion of gambling in Connecticut – whether by legalizing online gambling, allowing OTB’s to operate slot machines, or implementing Keno at bars and restaurants – is the wrong way to grow our economy and create jobs. The truth is that gambling has a detrimental impact on our economy. The expansion of gambling brings significant social and human costs as well. I will do everything in my power to repeal Keno during this legislative session, and continue to oppose other efforts to expand state-sponsored gambling.”

Congressman Bob Steele discussed Connecticut’s gambling casino history and why casinos are now trying to get video slots in the off-track betting centers. “More gambling is not an answer to Connecticut’s financial woes. Rather than encouraging people to gamble away their paychecks, we need to attract productive, living-wage jobs, promote stable revenue streams,” said Steele.

Steele also shared his concerns about the legislative task force recommendations to the General Assembly that suggested adding nearly 2,500 slots and poker machines at simulcast off-track betting centers in Bridgeport, New Haven and Windsor Locks for a total of 7,500 new video slots into CT.

Mary Drexler focused about fighting gambling addiction and how the proliferation of online gambling like KENO and video slots could do harm to those who are the most vulnerable to addiction. Drexler was grateful to Rep. Hwang and Sen. McKinney for shining a spotlight on National Problem Gambling Awareness Month this March.

Drexler said, “The hope for fiscal benefits of legalized gambling are blinding to those who continue to believe that gambling revenue is a free lunch. The truth of this statement is evident in the history of minimal allocations to address the unintended but very real human cost of problem and underage gambling.”

Rep. Hwang said, “I wanted to thank Sen. McKinney’s leadership, to being on the forefront of this issue and not allowing our General Assembly to accept gambling expansion to be ‘business as usual’. It is important for us to understand that as legislators – we not only have responsibilities to legislate but we need to also have a responsibility to care for our community to ensure it has the richness & fulfillment for people’s lives – and not contribute to the desperation and sadness that can be caused by excessive gambling.”