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The Other Side of the Atlantic City Casinos Story

January 9, 2014 - 6:00pm

Thank you, Nancy Smith, for bringing up Atlantic City, and for allowing us to tell the other side of the story (ref: Jan. 6 Smith column,"About All That Crime Gambling Brought to Atlantic City ...").

First, the source you quoted described the No Casinos organizations opposition to casinos as being morally based. Actually, the morality of gambling is not our point. It never has been.

We stand firmly against an expansion of gambling and the introduction of full-scale Las Vegas-style casinos because the social and economic costs for Florida would far outweigh any perceived benefit. As for benefits, lets not forget that comprehensive statewide study by Spectrum Gaming Group that admitted casinos would have only a minimal economic impact on Florida. It also projected that less than 5 percent of the patrons to casinos would be tourists. So where would the rest of the money spent in a casino come from? You guessed it our existing economy.

Likewise, our opposition does not start and end with concern about the documented increase in crime that comes with casinos. But heres the crux about Atlantic City: violent crime there touches 19.2 people per 1,000 residents, when the New Jersey average is just 3.1. Ms. Smith notes that anti-gambling groups divert attention away from the full story of Atlantic City. What is the full story?

Before casinos, Atlantic Citys population was 47,859. Today, the number of residents has dwindled to 39,558.

In 1970, the percentage of residents living below the poverty line was 22.5 percent. Today, its a staggering 29.3.

In 1977, the jobless rate was 18.1 percent. In 2012, it was 17 percent, nearly twice as high as the statewide average. Today, Atlantic Citys jobless rate languishes at 12.6 percent. (NOTE: October jobless rate.)

Half of Atlantic Citys casinos have declared bankruptcy in the last six years not because of a bad economy, but because of an oversaturation of casino gambling caused by legalization in neighboring states. You see, the casino industry has been so successful getting its product legalized that it is no longer a draw for tourists. Thats important to remember as the legislative debate over this issue heats up.

And the $2.4 billion casino that was supposed to save Atlantic City? New Jersey taxpayers bailed it out to the tune of $260 million and it still declared bankruptcy within a year of opening. Once a state becomes dependent on casino revenues, the casinos become too big to fail. Florida taxpayers should be spared a similar plight.

While were looking at statistics, lets look at Nevada for a moment. If casinos are so great for the economy, why does Nevada continue to have the highest unemployment rate in America? Nevada also leads America in suicide, divorce and personal bankruptcy. Is that a model worth emulating at any level?

As for Biloxi and Gulfport, Miss., casinos have not proved to be a magnet for economic development. They remain quiet, as Ms. Smith says, because there was little commerce for casinos to displace. Introducing casinos into desolate places like the swamp in Mississippi is hardly analogous to introducing them to a highly developed urban, family, tourist-based state like Florida.

Ms. Smith quotes Steve Norton, a semiretired consultant in the casino industry, as saying, No Casinos has every right to be morally opposed to casino gambling.

As you can see, the strong case we make has nothing to do with morality. It never has. Leave it to Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sheldon Adelson to broach that subject. Adelson said he is morally opposed to online gambling, calling it a toxin that will rob the young and poor. Im not sure what makes it any better inside a big, garish building.

Casinos engage in false promises and a lot of hype. But their record tells a different story entirely.

Michael Joe Murphy handles communications/content for No Casinos Inc.

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