The odds of casinos being prohibited from serving free alcohol are still worse than the odds of someone actually hitting a slot-machine jackpot.
But the city's Gaming Task Force released recommendations last week that attempt to protect gamblers from the pitfalls associated with casinos.
The task force's social impact committee not only recommended that city casinos be prohibited from comping alcoholic drinks, the committee suggested slots parlors send monthly statements to let customers know how much they're spending and provide a list that allows problem gamblers to sign up to bar themselves from entering the front door.
The committee's research estimates that there are slightly more than 8,500 pathological gamblers in Allegheny County and another 19,000 problem gamblers described as having "less significant, but still serious problems with gambling."
To deal with those problems the task force, appointed in April by Mayor Tom Murphy, made a series of recommendations Dec. 1. None of them, says gambling opponent and state Rep. Paul Clymer (R-Bucks County), can be made legally binding without amended laws.
In fact, earlier this year Clymer initiated a bill to require all casinos within the state to provide gamblers who sign up for casino rewards cards -- which provide comps depending on the amount gambled -- to receive a monthly statement revealing how much they've been comped and how much they've spent gambling.
"Right now, it's dead," he says matter-of-factly of the legislation, which was assigned to the tourism and recreational development committee. "Our only hope is that if a gaming bill comes along, we can tag it onto that as an amendment."
Clymer applauded the task force's recommendations and said if citizens want to see any of them enacted, they need to attend task force meetings and mount a protest at every hearing that comes along as slot licenses and site selections are being made. The only other way for the recommendations to be enacted, he said, would be for the casino to institute them voluntarily. Don't hold your breath for that to happen, Clymer says.
"Casinos will never agree not to give away things like free alcohol because that accelerates the amount of gambling," he says. "They have these proven techniques that feed on human weaknesses to keep people gambling and the system is slanted in favor of the casino. They'll never give up their edge."
That's why Clymer and 33 co-sponsors were set to announce on Dec. 6 that they'll be introducing legislation to repeal the state's gambling law. On the heals of the pay raise uproar and the removal of a state Supreme Court justice, Clymer says, the public is watching the government's every step.
"Public awareness of the legislature is so high, we feel this is the best time to try and repeal the law," he says. "The lobbyists made things look really good the first time around, but the reality is, with 61,000 slot machines we're in danger of becoming Nevada East. We won't be able to change the views of some people, but I think there are a lot more folks willing to listen to what we have to say this time around."