A recent study by Time Warner Cable of the Hudson Valley, Southern Tier, and the Capital Region areas on how residents felt about the potential impact of casinos in their local area showed mixed, and often confusing, results. Basically, while people believed that casino construction would bring jobs, they also believed that introducing a new casino into the area would increase crime, traffic problems, and gambling addiction.
If the negatives sound familiar, it is because it is the same old drum bear used by USA anti-casino groups to thwart casino construction in viable areas that would benefit the local population. The increased traffic argument is almost laughable since the alternative, building casinos in areas that would not attract people, just doesn’t seem like it would attract investment of any kind. Casino sites are selected that will make it easy for people to get there and to be highly visible. It is almost as if residents want to have the extra money but none of the problems associated with it, traffic being the least annoying and the most natural intended result of casino construction.
The crime issue is debatable and subject to a number of factors. One of the most natural reasons crime is likely to increase is simply the law of large numbers. The more people concentrated in a single location, the more likely there will be someone in the group who is less than honest. Let’s say the ratio of dishonest people to honest people is 1 to 100. If a casino holds a maximum of 5,000 people, then there is likely to be a minimum of 50 dishonest people there. Yes, the crime rate is likely to increase but actually has nothing to do with the existence of the casino itself. It is more an issue of human nature and math.
On the other hand, there is some evidence of the contrary showing that the volume of increased criminal activity exceeds the population growth average. This can be affected by numerous things and to isolate the casino as the only cause is not accurate. These studies also include areas that have suffered greatly in the poorer economy for one, and it cites examples of areas that have shown this trend for a long time.
Then there is the, “it causes addition” argument. It has been proven time and again that the presence of casinos does not create gambling addicts. Most states regulated real money online casinos are required to have gambling addiction assistance available to everyone, and in most cases the service is heavily advertised on the casinos terms and conditions. These are available 24 hours a day from home making it impossible to say that their existence is the sole proprietor of gaming addiction.
But the only way to prevent an addict from “falling off the wagon” is to eliminate the source of the problem.
Taking this logic to other areas of life, alcohol should be legally prohibited across the board, which was tried several decades ago with not much success. Extend the reasoning to chocoholics, people addicted to sugary foods, hoarders – and do we dare include sex in this list of possibilities? It should make any normal person nervous to think just how anti-sex advocates would regulate that addiction. Learn more about gambling addiction and how to get help here.
But in addressing the perceived negatives it is also important to look at the not-so-pretty picture of job creation once again. Depending on the location, the creation of jobs by a casino may be an illusion at best. If the new location does not have a large enough population of qualified people to perform the new jobs, those new hires will come from outside the community. The rate of pay for the various jobs may be enough for a single person to live, but a married person with children may find it far below what is needed, leaving them almost no better off than before the casino came on to the scene. Depending on the community, a centralized gambling location may not be the answer to their unemployment problem.
Though these issues have been argued time and time again, the most disturbing part of the study comes from a quote by Don Levy, Siena College Polling Institute director whose group assisted with the study. He said, “The public is quite wise. They see how what appear to be contradictory opinions and you can hold them at the same time.” In other words, people are wise because they cannot make up their minds. This does not bode well for the critical issue of voting on whether or not a casino should be built in their area.
What is even more disturbing is this survey was taken in a state where state operated casino demand is actually growing. The four licenses currently awaiting a final decision have some NY counties at odds with one another. It is not an issue of a limited consumer base but of convenience and availability. Yet it seems communities are choosing to not look at the bigger success picture and emulate the strategies of the areas that have welcomed the casinos and made them an integral part of their local economy in the first place.
A confused voter may decide to stand on the sidelines while the anti-casino groups target those who are most likely to reject the construction out of fear or ignorance. There is no wisdom in ignorance. It may be bliss but is hardly a reason to vote – for or against anything. For the entire community to benefit from the addition of a casino to its area its perspective must be both realistic, and occasionally, optimistic.