“While politicians and casino magnates seek to sell gambling complexes to the public as magic economic bullets, virtually every independent economic development expert disagrees — and they have the studies to back it up,” writes Florida, the director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto as well as a professor at New York University and senior editor at The Atlantic.
Florida pointed to Baylor University economist Earl Grinols’ 2004 book “Gambling in America: Costs and Benefits,” which totaled the added costs cities pay in increased crime, bankruptcies, lost productivity and diminished social capital once they introduce casinos. “He found that casino gambling generates roughly $166 in social costs for every $54 of economic benefit,”
Florida cites the National Gambling Impact Study’s 1999 findings that while the introduction of gambling to highly depressed areas may create an economic boost, it “has the negative consequence of placing the lure of gambling proximate to individuals with few financial resources…And as competition for the gambling dollar intensifies, gambling spreads, bringing with it more and more of the social ills that led us to restrict gambling in the first place.”
Florida points out casinos have not helped to revitalize Atlantic City. Even Las Vegas is struggling to broaden its appeal beyond gambling. “Atlantic City’s first legal casino opened in 1978 amid expectations of economic spillover in the form of retail businesses, restaurants, rising property values and jobs,” he wrote. “But a study conducted 13 years later found that any ‘anticipated multiplier effect has not moved much beyond the core industry . . . Half of the population still receives public assistance, and city services continue to be substandard. Social problems, including increased crime and prostitution, are worse than ever. Since most people holding the better casino jobs live in Atlantic City suburbs, they contribute little directly to the city.’ ”
Florida writes that gamblers “may fool themselves into thinking that they can get something for nothing, but public officials and civic leaders should know better.” He then underscores the role of states in enabling casinos by quoting Warren Buffett: “I don’t think the state should be in the position of selling the needle.”