Play to extinction

May 9, 2012 1:01 pm

Here is a great read by The National Review that cuts through the clutter and details what is really behind the growth in casinos across the country. Casinos are not about jobs or economic development. They are about raising easy money for state governments.

The upshot is a joint partnership between the casino industry and state governments to lure citizens to “Play to Extinction,” a term used by the industry to keep gamblers spending money until they are broke. The piece also captures the scene inside many casinos as poor and elderly gamblers arrive via buses and trains “on crutches and canes, lapping obesely over the seats of mobility scooters, adjusting oxygen tubes, discreetly nursing Big Gulp cups full of tequila and Pepsi through bendy straws at three in the afternoon.”

Deputy managing editor Kevin D. Williamson adds that the gamblers “come rolling and thundering down the tracks bearing our Social Security checks, our welfare checks, and quite possibly our rent checks. We are the blue-rinsed, unhinged, diabetic American id on walkers, and we are scratching off lottery tickets the whole way there as we converge from all points on the crime capital of New Jersey — because we are feeling lucky.”

Some hyperbole perhaps. But not much.

The piece does a fine job of making the case that casinos have done little to help struggling cities like Atlantic City or poor states like Mississippi. But the legalization of gambling has certainly made a lot of casino owners wealthy. And the casinos have generated revenue for state coffers. But that has not translated into better government services or lower taxes. As The National Review concludes: “Call gambling a vice, call it an addiction, call it a harmless diversion, call it anything you fancy — but don’t call it economic development.”