Though the American Gaming Association does not take a position on the issue of gambling expansion, we do find it necessary to address misconceptions and errors of fact or omission about our industry. A number of these surfaced in a commentary by Tom Grey (“Casinos are a bad bet for Sedgwick County,” June 12 Opinion) and in the news stories “Group to launch anti-casino drive” and “Gambling opponents lobby for support” (June 12 and 13 Eagle).
As an avowed opponent of gaming, Grey’s zeal very often exceeds his mastery of the facts. In his commentary, he presented a laundry list of ills he asserts are caused by gaming, including the contention that only casinos would benefit with their introduction and that resident taxpayers would find themselves victimized. That could not be further from the experience of communities across this country that host casinos.
Typical of this experience is that of Tunica County, Miss. Tunica’s local government gets 4 percent of the casinos’ take – similar to that proposed for Sedgwick and Sumner counties. These revenues have allowed Tunica County to, among other benefits, reduce property taxes by 25 percent, allocate $100 million to road construction and improvement, dedicate almost $41 million to school improvements, direct $13.2 million to police and fire protection, and assign $5 million to housing rehabilitation and support services for the elderly and disabled.
Grey erred further when he contended that the citizens of Sedgwick County will suffer from alleged social costs of gaming, including bankruptcies, crime, corruption and addiction. The bankruptcy canard has been discredited by no less a source than the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which said the evidence “does not support the hypothesis that the introduction of gambling has impacted county bankruptcy rates.”
The crime claim also has been proved wrong in a number of studies, including one conducted by the nonpartisan Public Sector Gaming Study Commission, an organization of state legislators who chair or are members of legislative committees responsible for gaming in their states. It reported that “the majority of the information collected during the past decade indicates there is no link between gaming, particularly casino-style gaming, and crime.”
As to addictions, while it is true that a very small percentage of society cannot gamble responsibly, the commission found that “there is no solid basis for concluding that the wider legalization of gambling… has caused a concomitant increase in pathological gambling.”
In reality, casinos have a strong record of helping local communities and local businesses where they operate. The University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center found that communities closest to casinos experienced a 12 to 17 percent drop in welfare payments, unemployment rates and unemployment insurance after the introduction of casino gaming.
These are powerful recommendations to communities considering adding casino gaming to their economic mix.
The public deserves the facts, and all reporting on the subject should include these facts to fully inform Eagle readers.
Frank Fahrenkopf is president and CEO of the American Gaming Association in Washington, D.C.