So...What's So Good About Gambling ?

     Many folks view gambling as a source of revenue for local governments, a boost for business, and various other positive aspects. The Maryland State Chapter of the National Coalition Against Gambling Expansion presents a different view in the material below:

     Joseph Faldetta, president of the Atlantic City Restaurant and Tavern Association said, "Of course, when the casinos were proposed, we all donated money to see that the casino referendum passed. They were supposed to resuscitate the hospitality industry."

     "I Believed My Own Propaganda!" Joseph Napolitan, political consultant: "In 1976, I was instrumental in bringing casino gambling to Atlantic City. This was the worst mistake I have ever made in 38 years of running campaigns.

     "We assumed they would create thousands of new jobs, revitalize the city, restore its economic strength, and make Atlantic City a better place to live. I sincerely thought it would be the boon Atlantic City so badly needed. Within three years, the crime rate tripled. It went from 50th in the nation in per capita crime to 1st.

     "Forty percent of local restaurants closed. The number of homeless people increased by 2000 percent. Property values dropped. There was violence: Almost 200 homes of persons who refused to sell their property to the casino were burned to the ground in arson-related fires. More people went on welfare. Shelters were jammed. An unseemly number of teenagers became gambling addicts. Prostitution was rampant.

     "Anyone who thinks economic problems can be solved by gambling is closing his or her eyes to reality. We made a mistake. It can destroy the heart and soul of a city."

CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: July 01, 1997

     Gamblers who dream of easy street are increasingly finding themselves at another address: bankruptcy court.

     A national study found that gambling may be the "single fastest-growing driver of bankruptcy." SMR Research Corp., a New Jersey-based consultant to consumer lenders, found that 298 counties with legal gambling had a bankruptcy rate 18% higher than those without.

DETROIT FREE PRESS: January 7, 1997

     When casinos began sizing up Biloxi in 1991, Mississippi banker Chevis Swetman sized up casinos all over the country.

     He called a friend in New Jersey. "When Atlantic City first opened up, what happened to the teller line?" he asked. "Did you lose 10, 15 percent?" No, came the response: "We lost every teller we had in the bank -- and half of our bookkeepers."

     The feared change that prompted hysteria before gambling was approved by county voters in 1991 has also materialized, according to Bob Waterbury, the director of the Mississippi Coast Crime Commission. "Everybody nationwide is reporting crime is down and I just cringe," he said. "How is it that it can be up 11 percent overall here?" Arrests are up 20 percent for assault.

BILOXI SUN HERALD: January 6, 1998

     Baton Rouge: Voter support in Louisiana for legalized gambling has declined sharply over the past year. Only 16% said gambling has had a good impact on the state (down from 30% a year ago). Those who rated gambling's effect as bad rose to 49% from 38%.

CHICAGO SUN TIMES: July 21, 1997

     Riverboats in Illinois have made millions in taxes for towns that have them, more millions for the state that licenses them, and of course, even more millions for the people who own them. But the tourism boomlets envisioned for communities across the state have not materialized.

     Most of the gamblers are either driving from short distances or arriving in tour buses. They are doing little more downtown than gambling. Elgin Mayor Kevin Kelly acknowledged that the casino there has not generated significant foot traffic downtown.

DETROIT FREE PRESS: August 8, 1997

     Patrick Henon wishes he hadn't supported casinos for St. Louis. He and other restaurant owners across Missouri pushed for a statewide referendum for casinos, hoping it would lure more tourists and more business. Now he's singing the blues. Business has dropped about 20%.

     "It hasn't brought more people into restaurants and it hasn't been a significant boost to tourism," said Carl Degen, vice president of the Missouri Restaurant Association.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: January 22, 1997

     The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce should reverse its support of Indian gaming because casinos have hurt business at restaurants in the metropolitan areas says New Mexico Restaurant Association. Ken Morris, association vice president: "Now we^̉re seeing a number of restaurants reporting between a 7- to 15% drop in sales. The impact seems more widespread than thought."

     "The business community is hurting because of gaming, and the chamber should reverse its decision to support an industry that spawns "gamblers" instead of "tourists."

THE NEW YORK TIMES: January 27, 1997

     Promises of windfall riches are seductive to states. But by the time the risks are revealed, there will be no way to dismantle the gambling trade or pay for the social and economic costs gambling imposes on weakened communities.

     Experiences in states such as Illinois, Indiana, and South Dakota suggest that gambling does little for economic development.

NEWSDAY: January 19, 1997

     The alleged economic benefits are illusory. Legalized gambling doesn't boost the local economy, it cannibalizes it. Gambling money is diverted from what otherwise would go for groceries, clothes, dining out, entertainment and other products and services. This punishes business, of course, and also hurts government as sales taxes are lost.

     For casino owners and stockholders, gambling creates wealth. For the rest of us, gambling consumes wealth. Bad checks, bankruptcies, domestic abuse and destroyed lives are the payoffs.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: March 8, 1997

     Missouri Gambling Booming; Critics Call it a Bust. Evidence suggest gambling addictions have skyrocketed, personal bankruptcies are at record levels. A few addicted gamblers, despondent over squandering family savings, have committed suicide or turned to crime. As Missouri voters considered the referendum to legalize gambling in 1992, gambling companies and other advocates promised not only millions in tax revenue, but other wide-ranging economic benefits.

     Proponents projected gambling would cause tourism to skyrocket. In many cases, it hasn't happened. "You get people that come, they gamble, and they don't necessarily come into the retail district," said Stephen Powell, director of tourism in St. Charles.

     Some business operators say the casinos have stolen their customers. Steve Taylor, of the anti- gambling group Casino Watch in St. Louis said, "All the concerns that were raised initially seem to be borne out."

NEW YORK TIMES: March 23, 1997

     Atlantic City: The restaurants are dropping like punctured balloons. Four restaurants closed last year and a fifth closed and reopened as a tavern. This while tourism in the ever-expanding casino resort has never been better. There are now 16 independent restaurants in Atlantic City.

     Joseph Faldetta, president of the Atlantic City Restaurant and Tavern Association said, "Now, why can't a city with 34, 35 million tourists support 50 neighborhood restaurants? Of course, when the casinos were proposed, we all donated money to see that the casino referendum passed," he recalled. "They were supposed to resuscitate the hospitality industry."

     The material above was contributed by Kim Roman, one of the co-coordinators of the Maryland State Chapter of the National Coalition Against Gambling Expansion.

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