Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gaming Expansion Has Huge Social Costs

Let's piggy back off of Mr. Paulus' comments for a second. Check out this story from CBS2.

An estimated $1 billion in new state government revenue is the payoff for flip-flops by legislative leaders and a governor who long claimed to oppose gambling expansion.

"In the spirit of compromise, I've accepted gaming, that I'm not for and don't want," said Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Unlike a general tax increase, most of this new money comes from just 10 percent of Illinois residents. That small group loses about $1.6 billion of the total $2 billion lost at casinos here each year.

Wagner is demanding a voter referendum on gambling expansion.

"Individuals within the city of Chicago should be allowed to have a voice," Wagner said.

A referendum in Arlington Heights was approved by a mere 26 votes to allow slot machines at Arlington Park. But that was back in the 1990s. The mayor resents not being consulted by state officials who want to put 1,100 slots in at the park now.

"We do not appreciate or welcome the pre-emption of home rule," said Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder. "[It] could bring more local addiction to gambling. It can ruin lives."

Gamblers now lose $2 billion a year at Illinois casinos. Losses could jump to close to $5 billion a year with this expansion. The government plans to skim a huge chunk of that loss for new roads, bridges, schools and mass transit.

A University of Illinois economist estimated those ruined lives cost society $3 for each $1 of new revenue from casinos. Because the Chicago area will bear almost all that burden, downstate is an especially big winner in this deal. Without having to put any skin in the game, the will get an equal share of new gambling dollars to spend on roads, bridges, schools and mass transit.
Of course this is nestled withing the political maneuvering and the possible revenue benefits, but if we look at the revenue benefits it makes sense to look at all the costs yes. The costs to those who are going to these casinos. Ultimately I think the decision whether or not to go to a casino is yours and yours alone and unfortunately a lot of people are going to be addicted. Even if that's the case, I would be under no illusion that gambling is the solution to the revenue problems of government.

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