Stripes readers respond about overseas gambling
Stripes received more than 60 e-mails from readers on the topic of overseas gambling, evenly split between those who think on-base slots should be banned and those who think troops should have the recreational opportunity.
Here is a sampling of their thoughts:
“Oh, come on. Of course you’re going to get one desperate story after another teary lament about how gambling destroyed someone’s finances, marriage, family and life.
“At no point will you hear these same individuals take responsibility for how they chose to spend their money and their time. … Instead of asking them for their sad tales of woe, how about asking, ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’”
— Marine spouse, California
“This is just another attempt to dictate morality over the entire populace of America. I have lived overseas on two different occasions and the machines didn’t have any ill effects on me.
“Why doesn’t Rep. Lincoln Davis propose to get rid of Las Vegas, or Reno, [or] all the gambling casinos on tribal lands? I would be more concerned with the problem in the U.S. rather than the MWR big profit-maker overseas.”
— Army staff sergeant, Afghanistan
“I agree they don’t need to be there. It is just one more thing I have to worry about one of my troops get hooked on. If they want to gamble, go to a casino.”
— Air Force staff sergeant, Italy
“I was a DOD civilian and was stationed in Germany for 5 years. I have had friends who were addicted to slot machines, because MWR makes it so convenient for them to play. I have also lost a few thousand dollars playing slot machines.
“The Army needs to stop MWR from ripping off the servicemen and women and their dependents overseas. They need to focus on fighting and winning wars, not gambling.”
— Army contractor, Pennsylvania
“By the tone of [the Web solicitation for personal experiences], it really sounds like you’re ‘begging the question’ … We are bombarded every day about the negative issues through command information: DUIs, family abuse, credit card abuse, etc. What about the good things that the services do with the money from gaming machines?
“Will Congress increase appropriations by an amount equal to gaming revenue if they eliminate the program?”
— U.S. civilian, Germany
“I don’t play the slots on base, but know of several people who have lost more than they have won.
“I know it is a personal decision to play slots, but when the machines don’t pay out a jackpot after a couple hundred dollars intake or an entire two weeks of swallowing up money, someone is being taken to the bank.”
— Army contractor, Japan
“I’ve never met anyone that has been affected by gambling. I’m not blind to the situation; I know there are people out there that abuse their own finances that may affect their family. That’s their choice.
“If the government wants to control our own choice to gamble or not, what’s next? My choice to drink alcohol? I wish the government would leave my civil liberties alone.”
— U.S. civilian, Germany
“Around 1994, when I was stationed in Panama, one of my sergeants wrote $1,200 worth of bad checks to cover his gambling addiction. We had gambling machines in the community club. He was about to be discharged from the military for that reason, and attempted suicide by trying to cut his wrist.
“By removing the machines from base, will this force the soldier to go down town to continue gambling? Perhaps we need to focus more in education for this people rather than moving the problem to another place.”
— Army colonel, Germany
“Once again, it appears we have another situation where the smart folks from Washington are telling everyone how to live. I seldom gamble although occasionally, I will do so. It is nice to have that option, especially when overseas.
“We all know stories of young troops who ran up phone bills of hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars in phone bills. What’s next, an age test for phones?”
— Veteran, no location given
“I believe most people if not all has an addiction to slot machines. I do not go near them anymore. At one time when I had some spare time, I would take a few dollars, change them into dimes or quarters, depending on how much money I was going to play, and then tell myself I can afford to lose this.
“But the trouble is after you lose the money, you want to try and win it back. Fortunately, I always won the fight with myself and left. Slot machines are an addiction, and now that they use cards instead of money I stay completely away from them.”
— U.S. civilian, South Korea
“People overseas that have a gambling addiction will go somewhere to gamble, whether it’s on base or off base. Closing down our gambling sites is not going to change anything.
“What is needed is better education on the fine art of Moderation. Plus, how is Congressman Davis planning on replacing all those funds for MWR programs that are badly needed overseas?”
— Air Force staff sergeant, Japan
Compiled by Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes