Exploring (and Exploding) the Senior Citizen Gambling Myth with Aunt Dorothy By Jeffrey Compton March 13, 2014 at 5:39 pm Earlier this week the Concord Monitor ran a column by Paul Davis, an anti-gaming advocate at the Institute for American Values, entitled “My turn: Casinos prey on elderly residents”. The column discussed an elderly New Hampshire widow who moved to Arizona in 2004 and, over the course of eight years, gambled away a considerable amount of money (for her) at a local casino. Her family members were not aware of the situation until they visited her in 2012 and noticed how nice the casino employees were to her. As in similar stories that appear every few months in the press, the bad guys are, of course, casino management and employees who allowed the lonely defenseless woman to walk into the casino, treated her with respect (including calling her by her name and asking about her pets), and occasionally gave her a free lunch. After pointing out that “nearly half the casino visitors in 2012 were over age 50” the article went to detail additional “sins” committed by casinos against seniors, including offering bus trips, free buffets and discount medicine, scooters, wheelchairs, and oxygen. I showed the story to my 88-year old Aunt Dorothy, a great-grandmother who raised four wonderful daughters as well as a very nice niece and an obnoxious nephew. After reading it she became rather annoyed. “I am tired of people who assume that the elderly have to be protected from all aspects of life – especially those that are a little enjoyable. I am eighty-eight, not eighteen. I do not visit casinos but I when I went out I appreciated when someone goes out of their way to make my visit especially nice. But I am no fool, I know they wanted me to come back.” She also questioned the specifics of the story. “Why would anybody move 2,500 miles away from their ‘close’ family? (The story mentioned that her son was a local New Hampshire chief-of-police.) Did she live in a senior development that offered a lot of social activities as well as other support – and if not why not? Didn’t her family notice her play before or was this the first time they visited in eight years? Did they ever ask about her pets? And are they more concerned about her or her money (or, down-the-road, their money).” As I have done frequently in the past, I agree with Aunt Dorothy. Compulsive gambling is a serious problem and casinos should be (and are) dealing with it. But management cannot assume that just because a player is over 60 that they are more prone to be a compulsive gambler. And they cannot be expected to check out the finances of every player who loses even tens of thousands of dollars over eight years (which translates to a few hundred dollars a month, a normal entertainment budget for many people). I do admit to being concerned that “nearly half the casino visitors in 2012 were over age 50”. I’m not concerned for the visitors, but for the casinos and the industry as a whole. That concern is not over compulsive gambling, but about the aging audience – but that is a subject for another column or more.