Several big-city mayors – including New York’s Mike Bloomberg and Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel – support casinos in their city. But three former mayors of Toronto oppose efforts to add a casino to their city.
What do the Canadians know that Bloomberg and Emanuel don’t? In a letter to the existing mayor, the three former mayors warn that “the numbers don’t add up.”
“Revenues can be inflated and costs such as police services and traffic congestion underestimated,” the mayors wrote. “In fact, extensive research in the U.S., carried out by Earl Grinols, professor of economics at Baylor University, indicates that for every $1 in benefit, there is a cost of at least $3. These costs are reflected in infrastructure costs, higher regulatory expenses, additional policing and criminal justice costs, and larger social welfare expenditures.”
The mayors warn that casinos also have a negative impact on existing businesses: “How will local businesses in and around the Casino be affected? According to some studies, not too well. Casinos want to keep you in the building, not roaming to outside restaurants and other establishments in the community. They have their own restaurants and shopping facilities to keep you inside. In Atlantic City many restaurants have closed near the casinos, leaving a few pawnshops and cash for gold stores.”
The mayors point out social costs are also a real factor – an issue most lawmakers ignore or downplay. “The social costs of gambling must also be taken seriously. It preys on the poor and those vulnerable to addiction. Problem gambling is already an issue. A commercial casino in Toronto will make it that much worse. Studies indicate that where casinos go, so go increases in poverty, homelessness, gambling problems, suicides, drug/alcohol addictions, and crimes by those feeding their habit. Not only are the gamblers affected but so are their families, their kids.”
Too bad these mayors aren’t still in office. The mayors in other big cities who turn to gambling as a way to raise tax revenue should heed their sound advice.