The American Gaming Association does not take a position in gambling expansion debates, but we do address false statements about our industry such as those in your Dec. 30 editorial “Still a Bad Idea: Nebraska Lawmakers Shouldn’t Ignore the Dangers in Legalized Casinos.” While your newspaper has every right to opine on the appropriateness of casinos in Nebraska, it does your readers a disservice to spread misinformation about the industry’s impact.
The reasons you suggested for Nebraska legislators to oppose legalizing casino gaming contradict independent studies that have found casinos to be positive for their host communities. Research conducted for the federally funded National Gambling Impact Study Commission (NGISC) reported: “… [A] new casino of even limited attractiveness, placed in a market that is not already saturated, will yield positive economic benefits on net to its host community.”
In testimony before the NGISC, local officials from Elgin, Ill.; Gary, Ind.; Biloxi and Tunica, Miss.; as well as other casino jurisdictions expressed their support for the casinos in their area. They cited instances of increased revenues for local governments, community enhancements and an overall improvement in quality of life for the citizenry of their towns and cities since the introduction of casinos.
Your claims of social costs ignored the results of key independent studies. Research conducted for the NGISC by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) determined that levels of bankruptcy and crime are not affected by the presence of casinos. In fact, law enforcement and public officials in gaming communities stated in NGISC testimony that crime rates actually decreased in their jurisdictions.
In addition, a U.S. Treasury Department investigation of bankruptcy found “no connection between state bankruptcy rates and either the extent of or introduction of casino gambling.” Most states with the highest bankruptcy rates are those with no casino gaming. For example, Arizona ranks No. 1 in bankruptcies, while Iowa ranks 37th. Furthermore, an overwhelming majority of Iowans – 99.1 percent – says they experience no financial problems because of gambling, according to a recent Iowa Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey.
Contrary to your claims, government-sponsored studies in Connecticut, Louisiana, South Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Texas and Washington, as well as in New Zealand, British Columbia and South Africa, have shown that the prevalence of pathological gambling has either remained stable or even decreased despite the introduction of new gambling facilities. The federal NGISC found that the prevalence of pathological gambling had not changed significantly in 20 years despite dramatic increases in gambling opportunities. Additionally, a 1997 Harvard meta-analysis found no regional differences in the prevalence of disordered gambling.
Your editorial presented a distorted picture of this issue; voters and legislators in your state deserve all the facts to make informed decisions about gaming in Nebraska.
Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr.
President and CEO