A few random thoughts on a casino in Cedar Rapids…
Casino supporters tell us that a casino will attract new restaurants, shops and entertainment venues. Apparently the thriving NewBo district in Cedar Rapids is just an illusion. This kind of growth needs a casino to anchor it. So to rephrase the Just Say Yes message to the NewBo entrepreneurs: “You didn’t build that. We want to take your current customers and turn their spending into gambling losses. Nuts to you guys.”
In 2012 Cedar Rapids was cited as a best city on the rise: http://www.smartertravel.com/photo-galleries/editorial/americas-best-cities-on-the-rise.html?id=200&photo=26067. This without a casino. So what do we need one for?
Let’s do some arithmetic. The Gazette published an article today that may have presented the best argument for no casino. http://thegazette.com/2013/02/03/cedar-rapids-would-see-less-revenue-than-other-iowa-casino-towns/
The pro casino argument is that casinos give back to community. The Gazette article says that casinos are required to give at least 3% of gross profits to a non-profit organization. The casino supporters estimate gross profits per year at $80M. The non-profit would get $2.4 million. That leaves a lotta wealth being redistributed from the poor to the wealthy investors. Supporters also claim around 400 jobs averaging $42K. That is around $17M. No matter how you spin it it looks like a lot of money is being sucked out of the community. Money that could be spent on productive businesses. Money that is being lost by people who can’t afford it.
Google “Social costs of casinos”. It is easy to find independent studies that say the social costs to a community are negative. Here are a few:
Here are some quotes from a study commissioned by USS-Mass.org:
Where does gambling revenue come from? Proponents like to point out that, for most people who gamble, it is harmless entertainment. True, but this group, estimated to be about 2/3rds of gamblers, do not lose very much. It does not come from the 1/3rd of the population that does not gamble. Both these groups are mostly in the middle to higher socio-economic class. About 80% of money lost comes from about 20% of gamblers.
(2, 6, 15, 16) Guess who they are? They’re disproportionately represented by people with low incomes, less educated, racial minorities, the elderly, the formerly incarcerated, returning veterans and those with a wide range of emotional and behavioral problems, the very people government is supposed to protect and to help. Gambling revenues are relentlessly regressive and a de facto tax on the poor.
In Deadwood South Dakota after 2 years of casino gambling, child abuse cases increased by 42% and domestic violence and assaults by 80%. (1) In one study, 25% to 50% of spouses of pathological gamblers had been abused. (12) In Indiana, a review of the states gaming commission records revealed that 72 children were found abandoned on casino premises during a 14 month period. (29) Some studies concluded that gambling is as much a risk factor for domestic violence as alcohol abuse. (12)
Proximity to gambling increases bankruptcy. New bankruptcies in counties with gambling increased an average of 18% to 35% by 1997 and continued at 13 to 19% into 2001. Casinos opened in Baton Rouge in 1994. In 1996, bankruptcy rose there by 53%. Gambling is the fastest growing and fourth leading cause of bankruptcy. (11- Ex. Summary p.386) Of the 13 casinos opened in Atlantic City, 8 have been involved in formal bankruptcy proceedings. (15) Most cash lost in casinos comes from credit cards and ATM machines accessed after the gambler runs out of money. (8)
“The social costs of gambling, in low income communities, could be devastating.” Barrack Obama (2003)
So, a child goes without dinner because her mom bought into the false meme of “hope” that casinos use to prey on the people that can least afford to lose. Is that worth the investment? As President Obama said Jan 14, 2013: “If we can save just one child, we should take this step.”
I gotta go…