LAS VEGAS, Nev. — A study released today by the American Gaming Association reveals there is no direct link between gaming and crime and that communities with casinos are equally as safe as communities without them. In many areas, according to the study, there has been no increase in crime after casinos are introduced, and in some cases, the number of crimes and crime rates actually decrease.
The study, prepared by crime expert Jeremy Margolis, former Illinois Inspector General and director of the Illinois State Police, is based on a review of previously published literature on crime; analyses of crime data; personal interviews with law enforcement agencies; and an examination of various theories, opinions and subjective data about crime and gaming, which have gained public notoriety in recent years.
The study covers almost all commercial gaming jurisdictions in the United States. A sample of the study’s findings include:
- Las Vegas, Nevada has a lower crime rate and is safer than virtually every other major American tourist venue.
- Atlantic City, New Jersey’s crime rate has been falling dramatically since 1991.
- Joliet, Illinois is enjoying its lowest level of crime in 15 years.
- Crime rates in Baton Rouge, Louisiana have decreased every year since casino gaming was introduced.
The study found that where the number of crimes have gone up following the introduction of gaming, the increase is not directly attributable to gaming, but rather it is the result of the additional visitor population at risk in these communities. According to the study,
“… there [is] a need to account for increased visitation and the resulting increased daily population in casino communities when computing crime rates, much as one needs to account for true population at risk in studies of crime victimization in any location that attracts a significant number of visitors.”
“Any place that has a dramatic increase in population due to visitors is going to have an increased chance of experiencing more crime,” said Margolis. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Disney World, a new shopping mall or a casino being introduced into a community.”
The study explains that the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, a national effort involving more than 16,000 local, county and state law enforcement agencies, which provides statistics for law enforcement administration, operation and management, are often misinterpreted or manipulated by gaming opponents. “Numbers are misused and distorted in order to blame the advent of casinos for an increase in crime to an area and to satisfy preconceived notions of what the numbers should show,” says Margolis.
Using Atlantic City, New Jersey as an example, Margolis points out how numbers were dramatically misconstrued to show a crime increase of 230 percent between 1977 and 1990. What is not factored into the equation is that after gaming was introduced, the average daily population (residents plus visitors) tripled in size.
“Many casino opponents…compar[ed] pre- and post-casino Atlantic City crime rates without revealing that the number of crimes committed by an average daily population of more than 120,000 people was going to be divided into a permanent population figure of only 37,000,” explains Margolis. Atlantic City’s crime increase was not credited to the relationship between crime and the increase in visitor population. In reality, the post-casino crime rate for permanent residents and the risk of being victimized is less than it was before the introduction of casinos.
According to Margolis’s study, “studies of gaming jurisdictions in which crime rates were reported to have increased found that when post-gaming crime rates were calculated using average daily population figures, the actual crime rate dropped appreciably.”
“Perhaps the most exasperating aspect of the crime and gaming issue has been the half-baked theories and outrageous claims that have surfaced, been accepted and used by gaming opponents and the media to spread unverified and down-right false information about our industry,” exclaimed Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., president & CEO of the AGA. “Mr Margolis tackles these matters well, and this study puts those issues into perspective.”
Additional topics of the study include an examination of the myths about organized crime and gaming. Mr. Margolis catalogues a number of comprehensive studies that debunk the claim, and he explains the multiple levels of regulation the casino industry is subjected to at local, state and federal levels. The study also includes detailed accounts from law enforcement officials who have experienced little to no crime after gaming was introduced into their communities.
The AGA represents the gaming-entertainment industry by addressing regulatory, legislative and educational issues. The association serves as a clearinghouse for information, develops aggressive educational and advocacy programs and provides leadership in addressing industry issues that are of public concern.