Casinos A Health Benefit For Seniors?

Tell Me More host Michel Martin and editor Ammad Omar dig through the listener feedback in Backtalk. This week they mark the end of "Linsanity" for fans of the New York Knicks, and the American Gaming Association weighs in on a story about casinos.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now it's time for Backtalk. That's where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere. Editor Ammad Omar is here once again. Ammad, what do you have for us today?

AMMAD OMAR, BYLINE: All right, up first we spoke with Suzette Parmley, who covers gambling for the Philadelphia Inquirer. And she said more states are turning to casinos for revenue, but she says there's a social cost they're paying.

SUZETTE PARMLEY: That is the pact you've made with almost the devil here. You're generating this for the state, but you're also going to impact a demographic that can't handle it.

OMAR: All right, well, the American Gaming Association's president Frank J. Fahrenkopf told us he didn't like that deal-with-the-devil comparison, Michel. He also took issue with some of the stats from our interview, like Ms. Parmley saying her reporting shows 5 percent of Americans who gamble are pathological gamblers. Fahrenkopf says that number is closer to 1 percent.

Ms. Parmley gave us studies and put us in touch with researchers who backed up her statements, but there are quite a few other studies showing the rate of pathological gamblers being closer to that 1 percent figure. And then there's some research that kind of puts the number somewhere between the two, as well.

MARTIN: Well, thank you. So everybody has all the information we have now.

OMAR: There you go.

MARTIN: What else?

OMAR: Well, there's more to it. Fahrenkopf also told us that gambling might actually be a health benefit to senior citizens. So you know we had to check that out, Michel. And believe it or not, there's a Yale study showing that senior citizens who gamble report themselves as being more healthy than non-gambling seniors.

So I spoke with Rani Hoff. She's an author of that study. And she said the question about why these seniors say they're more healthy is still very much up in the air. It could be because older people have to be healthy just to go out and gamble. It could be that it somehow helps them feel better. But more research has to be done to get a definitive answer on that.

And the study does show some negative measures associated with elderly gambling, as well, like higher rates of obesity, addiction and chronic conditions.

MARTIN: Well, there is obviously a lot to that story, too. Well, thank you, Ammad. Anything else? Any updates?

OMAR: Well, some bad news if you're a New York Knicks fan, who also happens to be a Jeremy Lin fan, like a certain radio host whose name I won't mention.

MARTIN: Yes, let me try to dry my eyes. Jeremy Lin is leaving the Knicks. Now, you might remember the Harvard graduate took the National Basketball Association by storm this season and spawned the phenomenon Linsanity. I talked with him on this program back when he was still in college, before fame and a little bit of fortune had hit.

Well, he's going to have a lot more fortune. He just joined the Houston Rockets for a little more than $25 million contract spread over three years. But I'm sorry. Let me just try to contain myself.

OMAR: That's all right. Linsanity is going to Houston, Michel, but you'll always have this buzzer beater.

(SOUNDBITE OF BASKETBALL GAME)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Lin puts it up. Bam! Jeremy Lin from downtown, and the Knicks take the lead. Amazing here at the Air Canada Center. Linsanity continues.

MARTIN: Thank you. Yes, I do feel better. OK, anything else?

OMAR: All right. You paid tribute to the late newspaper columnist William Raspberry in your commentary this week. He died on Tuesday. You also included part of an interview you did with Raspberry back in 2007. Here's a clip of him talking about how he defined himself.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED AUDIO)

WILLIAM RASPBERRY: I'm black. I'm short. I'm old. I'm Southern. I'm reasonably sensitive. I'm a husband and a father and a pretty loyal friend. And I'm all these things mixed up, and I have given up trying to separate them out into who am I the most. I'm mostly me, and I feel pretty good about that.

OMAR: Well, Janet Hess(ph) from Washington, D.C., had this to say.

JANET HESS: Ending the program with that wonderful snippet of William Raspberry describing himself was - well, I don't have words. What I have is tears. Thanks so much.

MARTIN: And thank you, Janet. And thank all who wrote in to remember William Raspberry, our dear friend and colleague. We also want to take a moment to remember another figure we just lost.

OMAR: Yeah, that's right. Sylvia Woods owned the restaurant Sylvia's in Harlem, New York. The restaurant's been serving soul food for just about 50 years. It's an institution, a must-stop spot for locals, tourists, politicians and even presidents. Bill Clinton said it was one of his favorites. Sylvia Woods passed away yesterday at her home. She was 86 years old.

MARTIN: And our thoughts are also with her friends and family. Thank you, Ammad.

OMAR: Thank you.

MARTIN: And remember with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can visit us online at npr.org/tellmemore. You can also find us on Twitter. Just look for TELLMEMORENPR.

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