Vice Squad
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
US Military Gambling

Stars and Stripes has been investigating gambling on US military bases abroad. It turns out that in places like South Korea and Germany, there are slot machines located on-base:

The U.S. Army and Air Force generated more than $83.6 million in revenue via 1,191 slot machines in South Korea in fiscal 2007, according to data provided by the Army’s Family MWR [Morale, Welfare and Recreation] Command and the Air Force Personnel Center.

The Army, which also runs the machines on Navy facilities in South Korea, earned the lion’s share: about $73.5 million with 927 machines. As a comparison, the Army’s 1,550 machines in Europe, including machines the service runs on Air Force and Navy installations, brought in $38.5 million during the same time period.

South Koreans are not supposed to gamble on US military bases but it appears that some of that revenue did come from officially-ineligible Koreans. Some of the revenue comes from military personnel or family members who gamble pathologically.

At least one congressman wants to put an end to on-base gambling. I have some sympathy for that point of view, but I also have another suggestion. Require every person who wants to gamble at an on-base facility to have pre-committed to a daily, weekly, and monthly (and possibly annual) total bet limit. Rig the slots so that they only operate when the player inserts his card into the relevant card reader, so that the previously recorded betting limits can be enforced electronically. (That is, the betting limit cards are like "frequent player cards" that casinos use to track betting and to target freebies.) A gambler who is afraid of his own susceptibilities to addiction can then choose low limits, or even totally self-exclude by not acquiring a card with limits in the first place. This voluntary system is not foolproof, but it is helpful. If this suggestion is seen as too tepid, then the limits can be chosen by the military.

Back in 2005, the New York Times explored some of the problems associated with gambling on US military bases abroad.

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