Forget Lady Luck – Casinos’ Economic Harm Trumps Gains

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Forget Lady Luck – Casinos’ Economic Harm Trumps Gains

By David Blankenhorn

President, Institute for American Values

February 21, 2014

The gambling lobbyists who’ve converged on Tallahassee are excellent at making promises. Fantastic economic growth, billions in new revenue, smarter children, redder roses — all this and more will soon be ours, they assure us, if only Florida’s legislators will give them what they want, which is a string of Vegas-style casinos in South Florida.

But while gambling-industry leaders make rosy predictions about the future — after all, these are the folks who say that putting your money into their slot machines will bring you “luck” — they are noticeably reluctant to discuss what is actually happening in the United States right now. This reluctance should not surprise us. Recently, a group of 40 scholars and leaders from across the country (I was one of them) carefully reviewed the current social-science evidence on the role and impact of casinos in America. Our report, “Why Casinos Matter,” makes it quite clear why gambling advocates would rather predict the future than discuss the present.

First, independent research overwhelmingly shows that casinos do not contribute to economic growth over time, mainly because they don’t produce anything of value. A tire company makes tires. A doughnut shop sells doughnuts. All a casino does is take your money. That’s why most economists conclude that gambling doesn’t create wealth; it just redistributes it. In addition, casinos contribute directly to economic problems, including higher crime rates and higher levels of bankruptcy and household debt. That’s why, according to many economists, casinos not only fail to help the economy, they actually weaken it.

The gambling industry likes to brag that new casinos will provide jobs for the construction workers who build them and the people who work in them. That’s true. But what they never tell you, and what study after study shows, is that those economic gains are typically outweighed by the larger economic harms that casinos represent….

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