Man threatens casino after wife loses $30k

February 27, 2013 3:51 pm

“My wife is at your casino, get her out of there or I am going to come up there with an AK-47 and [expletive] you and that place up.”

So began a telephone call from a man who said his wife had lost $30,000 at the Delaware Park Casino in Wilmington, Del., the News Journal reports. Brandon K. Buchanan, 28, of Wilmington, Del. said he was “fed up” with his wife’s gambling losses. He threatened to use a gun in order to let his wife know he was serious.

Buchanan was charged with first-degree reckless endangering, possession of a firearm during a felony, and possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, according to police. The incident is an extreme example of what can happen to families when gambling addiction takes hold. Studies show that divorce, suicide, crime and bankruptcy increase in the 50-mile area where a casino locates. (See a report by Baylor University economics professor Earl Grinols on the social costs of gambling here.)

Left unsaid is how casinos attract and keep problem gamblers coming back. It’s a safe bet that Delaware Park treated Buchanan’s wife like a VIP. She was likely offered free play coupons to get and keep her coming back to the casino as well as other perks. The goal is to keep gamblers coming back again and again. The industry term is known as “play to extinction.” (See video of problem gamblers here.)

This is the underside of gambling that lawmakers and casino operators don’t mention when boasting about the tax revenue that comes from casinos. But the sad reality is much of the casino tax revenue comes from problem gamblers. One study found that 60 percent of slots revenue at casinos comes from problem gamblers.

Why casinos are bad for cities

November 27, 2012 11:05 am

Richard Florida makes a strong case against adding casinos in New York City and other cities for that matter.

“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.”

The mixed message of casinos

June 18, 2012 3:08 pm

As lawmakers and residents in Massachusetts grapple with the rocky rollout of casinos there, the goal of the state’s new gambling policy remains unclear.

Are the casinos supposed to attract tourists from other states? Is the goal to keep Massachusetts residents from gambling in other states? Can the casinos spur broader economic development?

The answers are mixed because the impact of casinos is mixed. Sure, the casinos will create jobs and generate tax revenue for the state. But the casinos also create social and economic costs. Studies by Baylor University economics professor Earl Grinols have shown that casinos cost $3 for every $1 generated.

But lawmakers overlook such costs because they are blinded by the short-term revenue from gambling. As this column by Aaron Nicodemus in the Worcester Telegram details “the state is similarly confused about the benefits of casino gambling. It will lose more than it will win, just like the gamblers who cannot pull themselves away.”

Gambling videos tell the story

March 26, 2012 3:01 pm

This blog has linked to lots of stories and reports that shine a light on the downsides of gambling. As a change of pace, here are links to three video segments that also help tell the story. The first two links are presentations by two well respected casino gambling researchers. The other is a first person portrait of a problem gambler.

1. MIT professor and anthropologist Natash Schull calls casinos a defining aspect of our culture today.

2. Baylor University professor Earl Grinols explains how the gambling costs outweigh the benefits.

3. A self proclaimed “gambling degenerate” from Pennsylvania explains his addiction and the government’s role in gambling.