The false promise of casinos

January 25, 2012 1:40 pm

Lawmakers in state after state are seeking to legalize casinos as a way to create jobs and balance budgets. But there’s just one problem: casinos are not the answer to a state’s job or budget woes.

The Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader reporter John Cheves provided a very thoughtful analysis on the false promise of casinos. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear is the latest state leader to push for casinos. He joins lawmakers in Florida, New York and Illinois who are all looking to legalize casinos. 

The newspaper found that states that have casinos are struggling just like states without casinos. According to the analysis: The nearly two dozen states that get revenue from casinos have struggled financially during the past three years, just like everyone else. All of them cut spending; half raised taxes. Some fired thousands of their public workers, including educators and police, and gutted their basic classroom funding.

“Casinos will almost certainly increase your revenue to some extent. But there will be offsets and costs that you also need to consider,” said Alan Mallach, a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia told the paper. “Casino gambling does not create a single new dollar. Every dollar dropped into a slot machine is a dollar not spent on something else. It’s not like you’ve got an auto plant and you’re building cars to be shipped and sold around the world.”

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