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Friday, December 16, 2011

Casinos Killed Jobs in Illinois

Casinos Killed Jobs in Illinois
by Rick Stone

Of several forums that have already taken place over the last two months, this was probably the most comprehensive. Rhetoric at the previous forums, in the absence of hard data, was limited to visceral fears, high hopes and marketing. This gathering, with it multiple panels of academic, professional and technical experts, had some of that…but also some benefit of experience from other states. University of Illinois economics professor John Kindt said when casino developers came to his state, they promised thousands of jobs. But a subsequent federal study of jobs created by Illinois’ 10 casinos came to a strange conclusion:

Nine out of 10 had actually been taking jobs out of the economy. The tenth had been stealing jobs from Kentucky.

Why was that? Kindt says because gambling is a siphon that takes job creating money right out of the economy. Kindt appeared on the “social and workforce impacts” panel, seated next to Michael Pollock, managing director of the Spectrum Gaming Group, which provides consulting, data and professional services to gambling operators. When the topic turned to crime, Pollock had to agree: crime HAD gone up in post-casino Atlantic City. Atlantic City.

Before casinos there was nothing there to steal.

As the laughter died away, Pollock said much of the increase in crime was in such things as pick-pocketing and casino-specific crimes. But fellow panel member Pat Fowler disagreed. She’s executive director of the Florida Compulsive Gamboling Council and she said gambling addiction is closely related to serious crime.

About 37 percent of the people who call the help line indicate they have committed some sort of illegal act to fund their gambling addiction.

And it’s not just pick pocketing. She said addicted gamblers accumulate an average debt of 42 thousand dollars and many resort to fraud and embezzlement to replenish their bank accounts…and those are not crimes that are monitored to show the effects of gambling. Other experts on other panels cautioned against committing to casino gambling before all the facts are in. One of those facts may be…what happens in Cuba? Restaurateur Steve Haas — former chairman of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau – says his big fear is that the communist government will collapse and the former party capital of the western hemisphere may come back and spoil Florida’s gambling renaissance.

“Everyone is going to run to Cuba! In a year the infrastructure of Havana will be changed, it will grow fast. And then what happens to Miami and Miami beach?”

Two South Florida legislators are sponsoring a bill that would authorize perhaps three two billion dollar resort casinos in South Florida. The Legislature will take up the bill during the session that begins next month.

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