As baseball great Yogi Berra was fond of saying, “it’s deja vu all over again!” The lure of so-called easy tax revenue from legalizing non-Indian gambling casinos into Georgia continues to percolate in the state legislature.
In my case, it must be bad karma, as casinos have followed my career, first teaching college near Atlantic City, N.J., and then heading up a community agency in New London, Conn. So, I have seen the impact and effects of casinos first hand: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here, then, are a few observations:
It should be noted that the pro-gambling interests, largely moguls and major developers, prefer the term “gaming” to gambling. One is led to wonder if any industry which tries to avoid its truthful and accurate name is doing so because it has much to hide. That is surely the case with the gambling industry, which plays up the revenue-raising aspect of casinos while downplaying the many negatives. These include higher crime rates, as casino gambling inevitably leads to increased drug usage and peddling, prostitution, illegal alcohol sales, corruption and the like.
Of course, the rise in crime rates requires more and more law enforcement activities, more court cases and additional related costs. The “gaming” interests play down all of these negatives, while taking every possible step to avoid having to pay for such additional costs themselves. Thus, the direct and hidden costs of casinos are pushed off onto the state itself, and ultimately onto taxpayers.
There are also even less savory effects of casinos because gambling becomes an addiction, and like most addictions, it can destroy lives and livelihoods. This is even true of such forms of gambling as state lotteries, as many players buy unaffordable multiple numbers of tickets in their futile search for winners, whereas in truth the steady addition of more and more lottery numbers for each drawing has severely diminished the chances of winning. Players seem to have adjusted to that reality, though.
Casinos, however, raise the risks of gambling to much higher levels. The amounts of money being gambled away are much larger per gambler than what is typically spent on lottery tickets. The odds of winning, however, remain slim. But perhaps the worst effect of legalized casino gambling is the irrevocable change in ambience and lifestyle which occurs. The very nature of the state of Georgia would be diminished by such casinos, as occurred in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
That diminution would affect those who do not gamble as well as those who do — more casinos are, indeed, a very bad deal for Georgia, and for Georgians.
Dr. Eugene Elander