Children & Families

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Legalized gambling might be good for a state's economy, but it's not very positive for families, according to a telephone poll of 632 adults in Iowa, which has more forms of legalized gambling than any other state.

Seventy-seven percent of those polled said that gambling has a negative impact on low-income families; 60 percent said it's bad for all families with children.

Sixty percent of the respondents also said that gambling has a negative effect on children younger than 18. And almost half said that they have observed children participating in some sort of gaming, such as buying lottery tickets or betting on sporting events.

An overwhelming majority of respondents--94 percent--were opposed to the state's allowing minors inside gambling facilities, and 86 percent thought providing child-care centers inside casinos was a bad idea.

Nearly half of those surveyed felt that Iowa had too many gambling places; only 4 percent said there weren't enough.

Native Americans were the only people perceived to be benefiting from gambling, with 48 percent of those polled saying that gambling has a positive impact on them. In Iowa as in other states, gaming has become an important source of revenue for Indian tribes.

Glenn Roberts Research of Des Moines conducted the survey for Iowa State University's college of family and consumer sciences.

The survey is available for $20. To order, call the college's office of research at (515) 294-0211.

Privatized child-support collection offices perform as well, or in some cases, better than public child-support programs in locating noncustodial parents, establishing paternity and support orders, and collecting payments, says a new report from the U.S. General Accounting Office, "Child Support Enforcement: Early Results on Comparability of Privatized and Public Offices."

Fifteen states have turned to private firms in order to improve performance and handle growing caseloads. Since 1984, there has been a 150 percent increase in the demand for services. In 1995, there were 20 million cases.

In Virginia, the private enterprise collected payments in 41 percent of the cases, a rate almost twice that of the public office studied.

In some states, privatization is a more cost-effective method, although in Tennessee, one public office was more cost-effective than its private counterpart.

For a free copy of the report, call (202) 512-6000, fax (301) 258-4066, or write the GAO, P.O. Box 6015, Gaithersburg, Md. 20884-6015. The document number is GAO/HEHS-97-4.

--LINDA JACOBSON [email protected]

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