Solid socio-economic research

I get people asking me all the time for quantative measures of the “social impact” of gambling. I try to convince them that such a thing is hard to measure. But, if you’re unhampered by standards of academic rigor, it’s easy to make wildly inaccurate claims based on second-hand evidence.

Take, for example, this letter to the editor in the Sun-Sentinel:

Whether you are a “Christian” or not, you cannot help but wonder why casinos have been made legal in the United States. To see what legalized gambling causes to the local society, you just have to look at what is going on in Las Vegas, Nev., or Atlantic City, N.J.

As I have family members in both cities, I know that these cities are no longer safe to walk through in the middle of downtown. My mother has told me of stories where Atlantic City was a safe place for families to go for summer vacation. Las Vegas was also a very nice, small military city, which is no longer safe. Crime rates have gone up significantly.

Please vote against the casinos by voting for Prohibition Party candidates who want to make all gambling illegal.

Gambling’s effect: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

My first question is, is a “Christian” different from someone who professes the Christian faith? Why put the word in quotations?

Secondly, it’s clear this writer is correct. Legal casino gaming has absolutely devastated the economies of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. I know the real estate developers in Las Vegas have been sent to the poor house because of all of that gaming-related growth. Since the state legalized gaming in 1931, its been nothing but tumbleweeds blowing down Highway 91.*

I grew up in Atlantic City, and I know that people never stopped talking about the good old days of the early 1970s. It’s a shame how gambling just stopped that construction boom in its tracks.

I can’t believe that there is actually a political group that calls itself the Prohibition Party. I can just see the meeting:

“Let’s see, we want to start a new party, but we need a catchy name. How about naming it after one of the most disastrous federal policies in history? The one that ended in absolute failure and probably did more to promote lawlessness than any other constitutional amendment? Great idea!”

Las Vegas is a major metropolitan area that, like every other city in the world, has crime. Ditto for AC (except the “major” part). The fact that gambling is the basis for a tourist industry means that there is more money–hence more theft–but I don’t think there has been any study that conclusively says that gambling leads to crime.

There are plenty of arguments against the expansion of gambling, but I don’t think I found any here.

*Note: Back in the 1940s, that was what they called the Strip.

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