Recent estimates indicate that are millions of American adults, and juveniles who are experiencing compulsive gambling problems. Those numbers are compounded by the loved ones who suffer along with them. If the Broken Window Theory is applied, the effect of gambling’s negative side effects start to spill over into the mainstream of society, or the community in which a gambling problem is present. The broken windows theory describes a slippery slope effect in relation to the social thread of norms a group shares. One neighbor lets weeds grow up, and then another neighbor does also. A neighbor moves away and drug dealers buy the weed-infested house. People buy the drugs, jobs are lost, houses fall apart, crime rises in response to drug usage. One window is broken, and then many more follow. The City of Terre Haute took a sample of 61 businesses and found 82 gambling video machines. City officials were questioned and three answered respectively.
Bob Wright, Terre Haute’s Prosecutor answers when questioned about the machines replied “I don’t see much difference between these machines and people driving 100 miles to….Casino Aztar” and that he probably wouldn’t prosecute such a case. In the legal sense of gambling, according to this statement, the city does not does enforce legal deterrence. Therefore, it is not formally discouraged. If the citizens are not deterred from such an activity, the activity will occur along with the moral and ethical views decaying with the current gamblers.
Penny Davis with the Excise Police states “ The Excise police are too busy with underage drinkers, liquor law violations and minors buying cigarettes to take action. Liquor law violations in relation to underage drinking has a limited decay. The individual breaks a law, has a possible addiction. The person is punished or put into rehabilitation. Such a problem such as drinking is limited within a family’s responsibilities to address. The act usually takes place in a private but social arena because of the social formal law that deter public discovery. Smoking is limited also. An illegally aged person buys cigarettes, and perhaps becomes addicted. The act of smoking is a self-centered addiction and even though there are laws that forbid it, it is socially accepted in general. Excise Police officer neglect in concern to gambling allows the activity to become a “free of worry” event.
The Sheriff of Terre Haute, William Harris replies “I acknowledge that they are illegal, but I don’t get any citizen’s complaints on them…My obligation is to the taxpayer and I get more complaints on speeding vehicles and dogs…I’m going to spend my time where I have a victim who’s being hurt. I know gambling can be addictive, but the person is ruining his or her own life…I’ve never seen a person handcuffed to those video machines. Harris addresses problems that have surfaced, or those problem of which show their “face”. He acknowledges his role of policing to address complaints, which are called in, emailed, etc. This form of policing is a stimuli reaction process. Call, address the issue, and go. To what degree should policing be taken? Should the underlying effects, such as a social problem that has the ability to decay other social functions be addressed? Gambling is one of these problems. According to Harris, policing does not expand into the “social up keep” sphere.
There sits a video gambling machine in a dark corner of a dark building. A man, a father of three who lives in an average neighborhood walks in and uses the machine. He becomes addicted to the device and finds himself using it a little more each time. Time with his family decreases, the kids have less of a father figure around. Family funds decrease, denial occurs. The man has implemented less money and less of his time into the family, and the family starts to decay. If the problem continues and his funds dry up, he may turn to criminal activities to obtain cash for his addiction. Therefore, the crime rate rises (problem police address). He could possibly lose his job, his house, and his family. According to the broken windows theory, this man has broken many windows, which can filter, in the mainstream social environment. Any crime he commits is obvious but what about that which is not a crime. For example, he loses his job and has to sell his house and move to a poverty stricken neighborhood. His children grow up in an area with less moral and ethical support, an area with broken windows. The lives of his family members have been altered, wife must work harder and the children attend less adequate schools. They are influenced by drugs and crime, and are at a great risk of living such a life, which in turn affects others in the community. He breaks his first window by gambling; the second by neglecting the family unit, third losing his job, and many more after the family breaks windows and then crime/drugs. At the same time, many more persons were using the machine for the first time.
From the statements of city officials, it seems to be that law enforcement officials fight indirect crime (act of gambling is direct). Help is offered through organizations such as gamblers anonymous but that is treats the “after the fact”. These organizations are tools that we have as a society to slow the progression of social decay caused by gambling. To eliminate crimes that are caused by gambling, there must be formal enforcement of the law forbidding the act. Enforcing laws alleviate the social acceptance of gambling, thus eliminating a majority of the negative side effects caused by gambling.
So far in the city of Terre Haute, gambling is accepted by the people and the local government to the point of not enforcing laws. The effects caused by gambling will continue to be present, and the police will continue to waste taxpayer’s money on fighting it. Social decay will continue while a machine is present coupled with no complaints by civilians.