Twenty Years of Evidence Shows that Casinos are Still a Bad Bet for Illinois

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UPDATED: See this article from Professor John Kindt:

Extra gambling has implications for all Illinoisans.

The issue of gaming, gambling, casinos — whatever word you want to use — is one that perfectly illustrates how a topic can be addressed and the facts are rarely ever addressed adequately. Lazy or simple minded politicians and members of the press are a perfect storm when it comes to details — they both typically have an aversion to them. Here are a couple of recent news/commentary articles that touch on some important facts:

24-hour casinos a bad bet for Illinois

Some say more casino gambling means trouble for state’s compulsive gamblers

Even better is a just published report: Why Casinos Matter: Thirty-One Evidence-Based Propositions from the Health and Social Sciences. It’s from Council on Casinos, which is:

An independent, nonpartisan group of scholars and leaders who come together to examine the role of casinos in American life and to foster informed citizen debate on gambling as a public policy.

As soon as I saw it I looked for two names in the list of members and found them both. The first was  Earl Grinols from Baylor University and author of Gambling in America: Costs and Benefits. He’s a guy who gets it. The second was John Kindt from the University of Illinois. The organization Casino Watch has a huge page of quotes from Kindt — here are just the first five:

“[Gaming] is not economic development; it’s about taking money out of the consumer economy and shipping it off to Las Vegas.”

“The casinos are walking out of states with at least $1 billion in their pockets to Las Vegas.”

“This is an industry that generates addicted gamblers and they are desperate to get money.”

“Gambling has a zero-sum economic effect in its market and, like legalizing cocaine, the socio-economic costs of legalizing gambling overwhelm the benefits.”

“Every video [slot] gambling machine takes $60,000 out of the consumer economy.”

My point, of course, in doing this post isn’t that I expect American citizens to read dozens of pages or even dozens of quotes to learn about this or any other issue. I do expect, however, that conservatives know this material well enough so they can communicate it succinctly to their fellow citizens. This isn’t getting done in any serious way. The facts have been known for a long time and this most recent report merely brings the issue up to date.

Here is just a bit from the introduction of the report:

Whether or not you personally gamble in them, the new casinos matter. They are influencing the nation as a whole. They are affecting our health, our economics, our politics, our ideas and social values, and perhaps even our sense of who we are as a people and what obligations we have toward one another. They appear to be connected in important ways to the rise of American inequality. And because these changes are of recent origin and are still unfolding, they tend to be only partially and often poorly understood by the general public, journalists in the print and broadcast media, policy makers, and civic and business leaders—especially those who have never themselves visited one of the new casinos.

We offer thirty-one propositions, based on the best available evidence from the health and social sciences, to describe how casino gambling is changing and how this new social and institutional form is changing American life.

Again, you can find the entire report here.

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