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CSIG's Wellington Webb Plays Race Card in Anti-iGaming Op-Ed

Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb offered up one of the more head scratching op-eds the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling has produced in The Hill on Thursday, which basically makes it the valedictorian of head scratching op-eds.

Webb decided to open up an entirely new line of attack against online gambling, citing the need to protect minorities, who he calls “nearly twice as likely to be ‘disordered gamblers’ compared to the white population,” based on a study from the NIH in 2009.

Mayor Webb is apparently citing this study, which he fails to mention carries the all important caveat of “However, no national survey on gambling disorders exists that has focused on ethnic differences,” in its abstract introduction, also known as the very first paragraph.

Here is the full statement for context:

:Prior research suggests that racial minority groups in the US are more vulnerable to develop a gambling disorder than Whites. However, no national survey on gambling disorders exists that has focused on ethnic differences.”;






The racial component to Webb’s argument was not lost on online-gambling advocates.

Rich Muny of the Poker Players Alliance accused Webb of pulling “the race-card” when he shared the op-ed on social media channels.

Another high-profile vocal critic was the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s (CEI) and columnist Michelle Minton, who had this to say about the allegations on Twitter:

More troubling statements

In addition to the racial currents running through the article, there were also plenty of out-of-context quotes, and cherry picked data – an all too common theme in anti-online gambling columns.

The study was adamant in pointing out that other factors such as socioeconomics, cultural norms, mood, and other dependencies are also factors. The study also makes clear that it was not a national study and focused on distinct regional groups.

Mayor Webb did touch on the socioeconomic elements, but only to use out of context data to further prop up his already questionable points.

Poker advocate Mike Exinger also noted that the article takes Pew Internet Research out of context when it contends:

… minority communities are uniquely susceptible to the threat posed by 24/7 access to Internet gambling, finding that African Americans and Latinos are more likely than whites to both own a smartphone and count on those phones for uses other than making calls.”

What the research actually states is [bold mine]:

“Among smartphone owners, young adults, minorities, those with no college experience, and those with lower household income levels are more likely than other groups to say that their phone is their main source of internet access.”

What this research is saying is minorities and households with lower incomes are less likely to have Internet access beyond their smartphones.

Pew’s research also reiterated findings from a 2000 report, that “… minorities, adults living in households with lower incomes, and seniors were less likely than others to be online.”

Also interesting was Webb’s use of the term “disordered gambling,” which is cited in the study, but never actually defined by Mayor Webb. What makes this term interesting is that it is far more encompassing than simply stating problem or pathological gambling.

According to the definition given by, disordered gambling is:

A term coined by Howard Shaffer, Matthew Hall, and Joni Vander Bilt in 1997 to encompass the range of pathological, problem and excessive gambling. In their lexicon, level 1 of disordered gambling includes those with no gambling problems, level 2 includes people with gambling problems who do not meet the criteria for pathological gambling, while level 3 includes pathological gamblers.”

As you can see, you can be classified as a “disordered gambler” without actually having a gambling problem.

The NIH study makes this distinction clear by saying, “‘Disordered gambling’ is used to describe the combination of problem and pathological gambling. All individuals meeting 3 or more DSM-IV criteria for the diagnosis of pathological gambling are considered as suffering from disordered gambling.”

As mentioned above, a disordered gambling diagnosis requires a positive answer to three of the 10 questions on the DSM IV questionnaire, whereas a problem gambling diagnosis requires a positive answer to five of the 10 questions.

Another interesting little tidbit I discovered reading through the NIH study was the addition of an 11th question to the DSM IV:

“In addition, the DSM-IV criterion for chasing one’s losses was expanded to include chasing one’s winnings.”

Essentially, instead of needing to score a 5 out of 10 to be labeled a pathological/problem gambler, Wellington Webb focused on a study and a diagnosis term that required a score of 3 out of 11. A score that doesn’t even require the person to have a gambling problem.



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Steve Ruddock

Steve is veteran of the the poker industry, first as a player and now as a writer focusing mainly on the regulated U.S. markets and the politics of poker. Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveRuddock and at Google+.