With over 4,000 modern video slot machines in overseas military bases, the Pentagon sure takes its responsibility of providing entertainment to the soldiers seriously. If a few soldiers fall off the tracks and get addicted to gambling or squander away large amounts of money, we don’t really care – do we?
Repudiating the responsibility towards the welfare of the troops is nothing new for the Pentagon, but making gambling a $2 billion dollar revenue stream with over $120 million in profits, refunneled to pay for other forms of recreation like golf courses, seems unconscionable. The New York Times, in its blistering three-page report, today unveils the sham perpetrated in the name of providing soldiers recreation on military bases:
…Even military researchers have acknowledged that the armed forces are heavily populated by people [..that..] may be especially vulnerable to gambling addiction: athletic, risk-taking young people who are experiencing severe stress and anxiety.
The farce doesn’t end here. What goes on in treating soldiers with legitimate problems with gambling addiction is even worse. Military Chaplains are often the first and the last line of “professional” help that a soldier will get. Add to that the fact that addiction is, for common sense reasons, an illness that very people come forward and voluntarily report. Addiction, unlike pain in the chest, is almost symptomless except the receding bank balances and such.
The military’s attempts to tackle this problem have ranged from non-existent to sham attempts at fixing things to hiding the problem by conducting sham surveys based on “voluntary reporting”. A side note – the best way of conducting such surveys has been to ask about how many people have you seen over the past year who were addicted and this kind of survey today is considered the most reliable from crime reporting to sexual harassment because it takes out the troublesome “I” from the survey.
It is of prime importance that the military invite an independent firm to conduct a proper audit of the problem and create an independent board with the requisite powers to suggest and implement solutions, including banning slot machines.