Howard Shaffer, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, latest report on problem gambling deliver a critical blow to online gambling critics.
In his recent article on problem gambling, co-written by Harvard colleague Ryan Martin in the Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, Shaffer says. "The current available evidence suggests that the rate of PG (pathological gambling) has remained relatively stable during the past 35 years despite an unprecedented increase in opportunities and access to gambling."
Interviewed by Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune, Shaffer also explains his findings and deals blows to the critics behind the campaign to demonize online gambling.
Talking about problem gamblers in general, Shaffer mentions few quite remarkable findings. "Of people in the U.S. with gambling problems, about 75 percent had a mental health problem first and a gambling problem second," he says in his interview with the Chicago Tribune.
Howard Shaffer notes that problem gambling is not a "relentless progressive disorder"." If you smoke a few cigarettes, you will probably soon be smoking every day. If you shoot heroin a couple of times, pretty soon you will not be able to live without it. For the vast majority of those who gamble, control comes easy." He says. "It's a problem people react to." His opinion is that "Problem gamblers are more likely to get better than worse."
I can see all those gambling critics polishing their rifles, getting together, and set off on Harvard to meet face to face with their new arch enemy.
Far from being the Messiah of gambling, professor Shaffer states his findings which happen to be the milestone of the argument in support of legalization of online gambling.
What his research reveals about Internet gambling is even more compelling. "People gambling on the Internet change from gambling more to less in weeks. We never would have predicted that." Shaffer says. "The extent of Internet gambling for most is astoundingly moderate."
It is difficult to argue when science and research meet common sense. Professor Shaffer's findings will go a long way with all those who want to hear. His opinion has the advantage of being reported by mainstream media, an access usually denied to industry spokesmen.
The main problem remains that the political cloud over online gambling is far from clearing. Critics have well planted roots in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. They have access to mainstream media and they know how to communicate their biased opinions to the public.
The United States is not an island isolated from the rest of the Globe. Americans own the right to be free to decide how to spend their hard earned money. They have the birth given right to be allowed to do what they want to do in their free time. There are no social side effects in allowing Americans to gamble online.
Lawmakers in Washington D.C. must understand that the most sensible way to move forward with the issue is to legalize and regulate online gambling in the United States of America.