Expanding casino gambling is the IL GOP white flag of surrender

While the move to expand casino gambling might be just one example of the fecklessness of our Republican political leadership, it sure is a good one. Their constant hunt for more and more revenues to satiate the tax-eating industrial complex is a sight to behold.

Ironically, nothing is standing in the way of our Republican General Assembly members doing the right kinds of things. But instead of advocating for policies which would actually help build a political party, their actions lead to the destruction of it. Any of the following would be a good start:

  • A call for serious and thorough oversight of all existing spending.
  • Issuing of a list of spending priorities based on GOP principles.
  • An aggressive effort to explain how economic growth is crucial and that tax increases or gambling expansion hampers real opportunities for wealth creation.

It’s important to note that the case against gambling extends beyond the moral arguments. Professor Earl L. Grinols is a University of Illinois Economist and author of several groundbreaking studies on the true impacts of gambling. According to Professor Grinols,

Even studies that purport to evaluate the economic impact of casinos commonly exhibit a great deal of misunderstanding about what should be included among benefits and costs, and provide little or no guidance about how the costs and benefits relate to one another or should be computed.

Grinols’ fellow researcher is another economist, Professor David B. Mustard of the University of Georgia. The University of Illinois News Bureau summed up one Grinols/Mustard study this way:

Although promoted as an economic development tool, casino gambling is a losing hand when subjected to rigorous cost-benefit analysis.

The Bureau went on to quote Professor Grinols as saying this:

Much of the information has been funded by the gambling industry itself and is marked by poorly executed or biased economic-impact studies that use incomplete data or make conclusions not supported by facts.

Recommended reading for anyone tempted to be swayed by gaming expansion proponents is an article published in a 2001 issue of the journal “Managerial And Decision Economics” entitled “Business Profitability versus social Profitability: Evaluating Industries with Externalities, The Case of Casinos.”

In it Professors Grinols and Mustard say that the “literature on the costs and benefits of casino gambling is fraught with inadequacy and confusion.”

Professor Grinols’ has analyzed Illinois sales tax data in geographic regions around the riverboat casinos, looking at five miles, ten miles, and thirty mile distances. He concluded that there was a draw-down of sales tax transactions as a result of the boats, and that there was a discernable impact of the cash leaving the region in the hands of the casino boat owners.

According to Grinols and Mustard, even the jobs that are clearly related to the casinos have to be considered in light of jobs lost regionally as economic activity is moved from restaurants and furniture stores and other retail businesses to the riverboats.

Professors Grinols and Mustard believe that to adequately count the costs, several categories of various costs must be factored in. Their list includes:

  • Crime
  • Business and employment costs
  • Bankruptcies
  • Suicides
  • Illnesses
  • Social service costs
  • Government regulatory cost
  • Family costs
  • Abused dollars (a term representing monies acquired under false pretenses to fund a gambling problem)

The math doesn’t quite work out the way proponents of gambling expansion would like. Grinols and Mustard estimate that the costs of opening a casino are at least 1.9 times more than its benefits. Society, and the economy, pay a heavy price for such “economic activity.”

The negative social consequences that come with gambling expansion have long been known. Now, too, the evidence is in about whether expanding casino gambling is a good thing for the Illinois economy.

The only remaining question is how many Illinois Republican legislators will show once and for all that they have no interest in advancing GOP principles. A vote to expand gambling in Illinois will be just that.