Is addiction something to celebrate?

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hundreds of local residents, including prominent leaders, turned a blind eye Tuesday as they celebrated Natchez’s newest corporate partner.

It wasn’t a scene new to our community or our state, and, when you open your eyes, it wasn’t unlike celebrations of decades past all across our nation, even our globe.

Our society has always glorified harmful addictions for a time, until we learned better — the hard way.

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Now absurd advertising promoting cancer-causing cigarettes marked much of the 20th century. Movie stars smoked gracefully. TV personalities made it cool. Phillip Morris was king, and the effects of black lungs were a relative unknown for the public.

TV westerns made alcoholism manly.

Rock stars of the 1960s-1990s made illicit drugs desirable.

But today, no group of well-respected business leaders, elected officials and community leaders would gather for a ceremony celebrating cigarettes, alcohol or cocaine.

Why is gambling different?

The Mayo Clinic — a widely respected medical research group — recognizes gambling as a medical addiction. Their website offers symptoms, causes, risk factors, complications, tests, treatments, coping and support information.

Gambling has been around as long as alcohol and cigarettes, for sure. And it comes in hundreds of forms.

Its dangers have already been recognized by society as a problem, and that’s why you can’t enter a casino, visit a casino website or drive down the Las Vegas strip without seeing ads and messages listing phone numbers for those who may need help with their addiction.

Yet, we still celebrate the opening of new havens of gambling, businesses that exist only in hopes of drawing in customers and convincing them to return.

Not everyone who smokes dies of lung cancer, and not everyone who gambles gets addicted and ruins his or her life. But is it OK to promote cigarettes to a group of soon-to-be-legal high school students?

Is it OK to celebrate something we know will hurt people in our community?

The future of Natchez as a two-casino town is entirely murky. The net job growth, $1 million contribution to the city and pending tax dollars are all great — today.

But no one knows what the coming year, five years or decade will hold.

Will the first casino close or cut back its staff, erasing the job gains and increased tax revenues?

Will the $1 million going into the city coffers each year be spent in a way that benefits the residents?

More importantly, will Natchez residents who are already struggling with personal finances and family time simply lose more money and more time? What will the impact of that loss be on the community as a whole?

It may never be possible to truly track the impact of casino No. 1 or casino No. 2 on our community, and if you did, it’s unlikely everyone would agree.

But Tuesday’s celebration was a sad one in my book. If it takes a business that thrives on an addictive, money-sucking behavior to create economic celebration in our city, it leaves me wondering about us and about our future.


Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or