9/25/2013 @ 8:00AM |99 views
As Native American Casinos Proliferate, The Social Costs Of The Gambling Boom Are Ignored
By Kerri Toloczko
Indian gaming has been a hot button issue since before the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act passed in 1988. Although administration of Tribal casinos by state and federal government is codified in law, it is often a sidebar in the debate as to whether a casino should be approved in a community.
Wisconsin has more than 20 Indian casinos with another request in the pipeline. The tribe presenting the newest application is trying to circumvent long-standing federal regulation requiring tribes to open casinos only on reservation lands unless specific criteria are met – including that the casino be a “commutable”distance from the reservation.
The proposed gaming site is 200 miles away from the applicant Menominee Tribe’s doorstep.
Although waivers are rarely given, the tribe has had success with the Obama Administration after it proposed running the new facility using union labor for the first time in Wisconsin gaming history — leaving one to wonder if it will be a tribal casino at all?
The casino also requires approval from the state and Wisconsin’s other tribes, neither of which it has. Governor Scott Walker has applied brakes to this circumvention of federal law by proposing common-sense requirements – not an easy position to take in a state overrun with big gaming money and the lobbying pressure that comes with it.
A prime concern must be the crime and moral decline that often accompanies casinos – especially those associated with unions. In the cost-benefit analysis of casino positives and negatives that accrue to the community affected, social impacts should be a critical determinant.
In many places, sleaze and filth are commonplace around casinos. Las Vegas, our country’s largest union-controlled gaming venue, is known as “Sin City.” Along with its tourists, pornography, prostitution, drug use and alcoholism walk its sidewalks. Gaming chips away at the innocence and morals of society and is antithesis to the notion that fiscal responsibility and embracing a clean, healthy environment are good national characteristics.
Casinos are crime magnets with two types of illegal activity: Internal corruption that includes money laundering, loan sharking and mob influence, and street crime. It is the increase in crime directly spilling from casino doors that has the most immediate affect on surrounding communities. For nearby neighborhoods, these include DUI-related accidents, home robberies and mail theft. If a precedent is set that Indian casinos are no longer restricted to reservation lands, negatives will impact neighboring areas like never before.
According to a 2012 study of casino crime by University of Maryland researchers, there is a 10 percent increase in substance abuse, suicide, violent crime, theft and bankruptcy when a new casino opens in town. Other studies found 8 – 9 percent crime increases at a cost near $70 per year for every person living nearby. After Atlantic City’s rapid casino growth in the 1980s, crime increased by 100 percent in a 30 mile radius surrounding the area.
When casinos started booming in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute commissioned a three-part study of casino related crime in the Badger State that produced frightening results. The expert panel (an economist, a statistician and an expert in gaming administration) found, “existence of a casino within the boundaries of a county led to an increase in county-wide crime rates (and) a strong spillover effect with counties adjacent experiencing higher crime rates.” Their data showed a 5,300 annual increase of “major crimes” and 17,100 “minor crimes” with an associated cost in 2001 dollars of $51 million for Wisconsin taxpayers.
Debt is a damaging and destructive influence in society, and the main reason for divorce. Divorce is a main cause of poverty, depression and youth crime. National data demonstrates that debt increases alongside new casinos. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, casinos attract “pathological gamblers” who account for 50% of casino revenue and much of the crime.
An Indian nation singularly focused on the staggering increase in tribal revenue provided by casinos will continue to ignore social costs, as it is in its reasonable self-interest to do so. However, citizens in impacted communities should not choose violence and crime over morals, integrity and the cost of illegal activity. If a non-reservation casino is built, problems will not affect “someone else” - it will have an immediate, negative effect on Wisconsin society and the wallets of its workers.
Nationwide in 2008, about 80 percent of both Tribal and union contributions (more than $500 million) went to the Obama campaign and Democrats – a strategy paying off at the expense of Wisconsin communities. As Scott Walker takes a stand against integration of crime into neighborhoods he has sworn to protect, regardless of their political views, Wisconsinites would be wise to join their Governor on this issue, making it clear to the government in Washington and special interests in their state that they stand for safe communities – and themselves.
Kerri Toloczko is a Senior Fellow with Let Freedom Ring, a public policy organization supporting constitutional government, economic freedom and traditional values.