OPINION | Chris McCarthy: Senator Warren is Correct
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is correct to be concerned about gambling problems in the United States military, and our government's role in fostering it.
Sen. Warren has been working on the problem of gambling addiction among our military personnel from her position as a member of the powerful Armed Services Committee in the Senate. She has developed a bipartisan bill with Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines, based on a Government Office of Accounting report she requested in 2017.
Did you know the Department of Defense is in the gambling business, and its customers are our service members deployed overseas?
In the 1990's, I was deployed with my military police unit to the Panama Canal Zone on two occasions. I was stunned to find video poker devices on the base. The base was highly restricted, and the only customers for the gambling machines were American military personnel on the base. I realized immediately the government was running a racket to recapture the paychecks of the individuals in uniform who chose to spend the income on gambling. I was shocked, but I also forgot about it until I saw the work Sen. Warren has been doing on the matter.
According to the 2017 GOA report, done at Sen. Warren's request, the money lost to the Department of Defense gambling racket by military personnel is $100 million per year. This gambling operation is confined to overseas bases, because slot machines have been outlawed on domestic military installations since 1951 to protect our troops.
Secrecy is a necessary part of the rackets. And what could be better than overseas locations controlled by the organization controlling the racket? Since the 1951 prohibition on domestic gambling machines, the DoD has focused their gambling rackets to American bases overseas --out of sight, out of mind. Their customer base is the mostly youthful enlisted service members, away from family and friends in a foreign country with a regular source of income and a desire for excitement.
The GOA report also discovered "that the DoD does not systematically screen military personnel for gambling disorder," despite the $100 million it generates from the 3,141 slot machines on bases.
Gambling addiction destroys lives and causes addicts to make reckless and criminal decisions. The addict hurts himself and the ones around him to feed the gambling beast.
However, when it comes to the U.S. military members who are gambling addicts, the issue is also about national security. A person in financial debt is a target for foreign intelligence agents. While some traitors, like the Rosenbergs, Alger Hiss and Anna Montes are motivated by ideology, most are motivated by money. The Dept. of Defense is well aware of the fact that foreign intelligence agencies are constantly looking for vulnerable military personnel who can be compromised.
According to Senators Warren and Daines, "The National Council on Problem Gambling estimates that as many as 56,000 active duty members of the Armed Forces meet criteria for gambling disorder." That is a lot of vulnerable people with access to our nation's secrets and security process.
I applaud Senator Elizabeth Warren for her efforts to address the problem of gambling addiction in our military, and I wonder why the government has allowed it to go unaddressed for so long.
Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.