The State of Michigan is home to 3 casinos in Detroit owned by corporate interests and 22 tribal-owned casinos. You’d think this would be enough.
But no. Now two competing groups are working to put casino-approval measures on the fall ballot that, if passed, would permit one gambling proponent to add 8 new casinos and the other to add 7 new casinos.
You heard that right. In a state with 25 casinos these groups think we need 7-8 more.
The groups are euphemistically named Citizens for More Michigan Jobs and Michigan Is Yours. Makes you want to sprint to the polling booth doesn’t it? Pro-gambling groups never name themselves More Casinos For More Debt or Gamble Till Your Money’s Gone. No, they’re about “more jobs.” Sure they are.
And the same old tired arguments are being trotted out in support of more casinos, e.g., that these establishments will be taxed at high levels and the money will go for—public schools, police and fire services, townships, road repair, and my favorite, gambling-addiction prevention programs. (The best gambling-addiction prevention program is not to gamble.)
In other words, casino proponents argue that new casinos will provide more money for a host of social services people like, want, or need. Makes political sense: who’s against schools?
But the problem is, this is a bait and switch. Sure, this tax revenue may be earmarked for education and such, but it doesn’t mean education and such gets more money, which is what the public thinks. It means that these funds will go for education and such and then the Legislature will redirect elsewhere tax revenues that would have gone to education and such. In the end, education and such doesn’t necessarily, in fact usually does not at all, end up with more funds. They just end up with other funds, and the public is duped into a new “painless” (for politicians) tax.
Casinos don’t produce anything. They don’t add to the local economy in any way. In fact, casinos drain money from legitimate businesses in the local economy. And, while you cannot make a good case that gambling causes negative social and economic pathologies, you certainly can make a credible case that gambling is correlated with negative social and economic pathologies. These developments—e.g., debt and bankruptcy, job absenteeism, suicide, divorce, theft, health issues—cost local economies. The pubic ends up paying more in increases in health care premiums and increases in criminal justice costs.
It’s said, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” Casinos offer fools gold to attract fools. Michigan doesn’t need more of either one. Gambling is a bad bet; don't bet on it.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012
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