Jobs, jobs, jobs! Economic development! We hear these words shouted at us many times a day. Of course these are major concerns in Rhode Island and throughout the country. But Citizens Concerned About Casino Gambling do not think that the introduction of casino gambling in Newport is a satisfactory response to these concerns. Therefore we oppose statewide Questions 1 and 2.
We believe that true economic development should provide goods and needed services that will benefit the residents. Gambling is a dead-end proposition with no added wealth for the community. One needs only to look at the closing of four casinos in Atlantic City in one month and the lessening of revenue in so many casinos nationwide, including Rhode Island.
CCACG believes that all the energy, time and money spent over the last few years in trying to expand a slots parlor into a full-scale casino in Newport could be better spent finding other ways to increase employment.
A good start would be with the North End Master Plan prepared for Newport in 2006. It should be given more attention and action for continued crucial development of the North End and the pursuit of high-quality technical and marine research jobs.
Gaming is an oversaturated industry. It seems that anyone who has ever wanted to try a casino has done so. The market is not expanding. Only the venues meant to cater to a finite number of gamblers is growing, oftentimes to close within a few years and lay off faithful employees.
Eventually, unless the anti-casino vote prevails in Massachusetts and on-line gambling continues to grow, there will be a further loss of gambling revenue for Rhode Island. We think it would be wise to overcome the ever-increasing losses by finding new areas of development in Rhode Island instead of just going blindly to the trough of gambling revenue.
The University of Rhode Island’s new and beautiful School of Pharmacy and the outstanding Oceanographic Institute along with all the possibilities of medical and educational districts in Providence are good signs that we can once again have a growing economy without casinos. Our flourishing tourist industry can also be further expanded without the branding of “casino” hanging over our heads.
Worse, Newport and the other communities in Rhode Island could easily lose control over any casino with the General Assembly legislating exceptions to zoning or alcohol laws as it did with a smoking ban.
Rhode Island has been receiving more revenue from gambling per capita than any other state in the country. The introduction of full casino gambling could even increase the frightening number of problem and addicted gamblers in Rhode Island with the attendant social costs caused by problem gambling, namely embezzlement, theft, bankruptcies, mortgage defaults, divorce and even suicides.
Baylor University Professor Earl L. Grinols, an expert on the costs and benefits of casino gambling, shows that for every dollar of casino revenue gained for the state, there are social costs of three dollars.
Revenue could also drop for Rhode Island if full casino games are allowed at Newport Grand, because the share for the state would only be 16 percent to 18 percent from the table games whereas the state now receives about 61 percent from the Twin River and Newport Grand slot machines. Surely not a winning proposition.
Therefore we encourage all Rhode Islanders to reject Questions 1 and 2 on Nov. 4, so that Rhode Island will not become an even more dangerous predator on its residents, very often on the very people least able to afford gambling losses.
The Rev. Eugene J. McKenna is president of Citizens Concerned About Casino Gambling.