Red Mile gambling could lead to problems

Odds are you have no idea that a $30 million instant racing facility is being built at The Red Mile on the edge of our campus. Have you read about it in the newspaper or seen it on the news?

Chances are you haven’t, because when the horse racing industry (in this case, a partnership between Keeneland and The Red Mile) brings these machines to a city, they operate quickly and quietly, especially in Kentucky, because certain types of gambling machines haven’t been legalized here.

I love a beautiful afternoon at the race track as much as anyone, but I’m not excited about the track we all love switching gears and pouring resources into casino-style entertainment, and a business model that relies on people getting addicted to its product. It’s sad that a few people have developed gambling addictions related to horse racing, but that number will skyrocket with instant racing. And many of those addicts will be college students like you and I.

These machines are designed to be addictive and are controlled to ensure they take in more money than they pay out.

The location of this facility is no accident. Instead of putting it at Keeneland, it’s being built in UK’s front yard, with direct access to thousands of college students, already high in debt for the price of their education. Another target group — and this is even worse — is the low-income neighborhood along Versailles Road.

Horse industry executives say they aren’t trying to target these groups, but they’re promoting something they know for a fact subsists addictions to specifically vulnerable groups. That’s trying! They know that addiction rates are highest among younger people and lower-income individuals. Creating addicts who play slots regularly is the main way casinos make money.

A recent study found that casual gamblers represented 75 percent of players but only 4 percent of revenues. Do some grade school math and you’ll realize that 25 percent of the players are making up 96 percent of the revenue. That is alarming.

You can believe that playing slots won’t become a personal habit and you’ll only do it for fun every once in awhile. That thinking changes when the slot machines are in your backyard. The same study mentioned above also concluded that if you live within 10 miles of a casino you are twice as likely to form a gambling addiction.

An argument from casino proponents says that because The Red Mile is not technically on UK’s campus it should not be a university issue. Campus police might disagree. A few weeks ago when gunshots were fired on Red Mile Road, UK Police sent a campus wide safety message alerting students that shots had been fired. How could an area of town that thousands of students call home not be considered a part campus?

I expressed concern to the Dean of Students, the Student Body President and the Board of Trustees, and all I got back was indifference.

Despite this, students are still speaking out. A YouTube search of “students speak out against slots at UK” will lead you to several videos of your fellow students sharing their heart on this matter.

Now that you are aware of this development, it’s time for you join the conversation.

Talk with your friends, parents and professors, and decide whether this is something UK needs to be involved in.

Join a group of students who will be attending the May 8th board of trustees meeting to vocalize your concern and fight for the campus. This meeting will be crucial in UK leadership understanding where their students stand on this issue. Keeneland executives say there is nothing that we can do to stop this from happening, but we won’t be that easily convinced.

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