Long-Shot Bill Bets on Exposing Gambling's Cost | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Long-Shot Bill Bets on Exposing Gambling's Cost


In his more than 20 years of dealing with casinos, Bill Kearney has come to a realization: "These people can do whatever they want, because nobody wants to fuck with the gambling industry."


That's not exactly true: This Philadelphia native, author and recovered gambling addict will continue to fuck with casino owners as long as gambling continues to expand into Pennsylvania, including areas whose residents can least afford the consequences of getting hooked.

Kearney's most recent attempt to ream the industry involves teaming with Philly-area state Rep. Paul Clymer to introduce House Bill 1245. It would force casinos to send gamblers a monthly statement tracking their time and money spent, if the casino already tracked such data through its frequent-player cards. Clymer says the hope is that a player (and anyone else at the player's address, such as his family) will see how much they've lost in a month, helping them see whether their gambling is reaching dangerous levels.

"The casinos are already keeping track of this information," Clymer says. "It's the system they use to determine who gets comped." Comping -- getting free rooms, food or other services from a casino -- is based on how much time and money a player spends at the tables or the slots. Kearney, who authored a book (Comped) on the subject, says comps are a dangerous excuse for gamblers to keep gambling.

"The casino is only comping you if you're spending a lot of money," he says. "They can afford it because you're spending way more than they're giving. If you're a gambler, you can justify how much money you're spending because last month the casino gave you a fucking George Foreman grill."

Clymer says if casino owners and lobbyists really cared about preventing gambling addiction, they wouldn't stand in the way of HB 1245. The bill will likely not emerge from the committee on tourism and travel due to lack of support, he admits. Clymer says he will reintroduce the bill as often as it takes to get it serious consideration.

Kearney, who recovered from millions of dollars in gambling losses incurred during trips to Atlantic City, believes gambling is a more expensive addiction than drugs or alcohol, and that monthly statements can help people combat an addiction before it starts. The only people who object, he says, are the casino owners.

"The casino owners aren't used to people telling them what to do because no one has ever tried it before," he says. "If you get tough, then Donald Trump and Steve Wynn aren't coming to Pennsylvania," he concludes, referring to the most famous Atlantic City and Las Vegas casino owners. "Because the last thing they want is you knowing what they're up to."