To the editor of THE EAGLE:

Citizens, Beware! The claims made by Geoff Freeman, the president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, are extremely misleading ("Casi nos will spur state economy," letter, May 15.)

State-sponsored casino gambling is a predatory business model that depends on the repeat business of middle and low income customers who can ill afford such "mainstream entertainment." The largest revenue (up to 50 percent) comes from problem gamblers, whose numbers increase where casinos are operating. Members of Mr. Freeman's association stand to make millions from preying on these problem gamblers. Several states, including nearby Rhode Island, Delaware and New Jersey, have provided taxpayers' dollars and offered concessions that decrease state income to bail out casinos that are failing.

When casinos are built we can expect a range of negative social and economic outcomes. Money spent gambling is not spent at local businesses and entertainment venues. Well-demonstrated social ills create a demand for more social services for the families of problem gamblers. The ill effects spread to a 50-mile radius.

Casinos are just plain bad news for the poor and their neighbors. They tear at our common social fabric. One economist, Earl Grinois of Baylor University, wrote, "This is an industry, like it or not, that is making its money off the sickness of its clients. Government is supposed to be the protector and guardian of the community, not the predator."

We support the current move to allow all Massachusetts citizens to vote whether or not to repeal the state casino law in November.

LEE CHEEK

Egremont

THE REV. ANNIE RYDER

Sheffield

The Rev. Ryder is rector and pastor of Christ Trinity Church in Sheffield.