Why Casinos are Becoming Like Landfills

Americans still love to gamble. They just don't want casinos near where they live

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Milford, Massachusetts at the holidays looks a lot like Bedford Falls, the fictional setting of the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Settled in 1662, the town of 27,000 still has working farms, its own daily newspaper, a baseball diamond behind the American Legion Hall and an annual picnic. On Memorial and Veteran’s days, parades run down a Main Street lined with white wooden churches and historic buildings made of red brick and locally quarried pink granite.

But it’s visions of Pottersville, the film’s alternate-universe world of greed, strip clubs, pawnshops, and hopelessness that have been on residents’ minds this season.

Wary of increased crime and traffic and depressed property values, Milford voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposal for a $1 billion, 24-hour casino in November, becoming the sixth Massachusetts community to say no since voters statewide opened the way for three slot parlors or casinos in 2011.

“It didn’t take long to be convinced that this was not good for a small town,” says Steve Trettel, co-chair of the group Casino-Free Milford. “If you want to get right down to the root of it, that’s really it.”

While there’s been no slowdown in the pace at which states continue to approve adding or expanding casinos and slot machine parlors, they are starting to run into trouble finding places to put them.

In addition to the cities and towns in Massachusetts, which included a neighborhood in Boston, new or expanded gambling venues have been voted down in Portland, Oregon, Newport, Rhode Island and Biddeford, Lewiston, and Washington County, Maine. In early December, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick filed suit to block a native-American tribe from opening a casino on toney Martha’s Vineyard.

Across the nation, community and business interests are pushing back against the possibility of new casinos. In Central Florida, powerful interests including the Walt Disney Company, intent on preserving the region’s reputation as a family destination, have organized to prevent the state legislature from adding casinos there. Even in South Florida, which has been more accepting of gambling, local officials are raising concerns about plans to expand an existing casino operated by a Native American tribe, citing the potential for spillover traffic and crime.

A federal application submitted by another Native American tribe to build a casino in the upstate New York town Union Springs is being fought by a coalition that includes the state’s senior Senator, Chuck Schumer, on the grounds that it would bring unfair competition for local businesses. Even Massachusetts Governor Patrick, who signed the bill to legalize casinos there, has said that he would vote against one if it were ever proposed for the Berkshires town where he has a second home.

This resistance is not because Americans don’t want to gamble. In the last 10 years, the nationwide revenue from casino gambling has grown from $29 billion to more than $37 billion, according to the American Gaming Association, which represents the casino industry.

Massachusetts residents alone spent an estimated $850 million last year in casinos in neighboring states, according to the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. And 61 percent of them still like the idea of having casinos in the state, a survey by the Western New England University Polling Institute found.

They just don’t appear to want gambling near where they live. The same poll found that 55 percent of Bay State adults oppose casinos in their own communities.

“There is definitely some of that ‘not in my back yard’ going on,” says David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. “It seems that people are comfortable with the idea of casinos, but once they get into the specifics of, this is where it’s going to go and this is what it’s going to look like and this is how it’s going to affect my commute, they may be having second thoughts.”

Not every community is hostile to casinos. Several in Massachusetts have voted to allow them, including one on the site of a former chemical plant and one at a former greyhound racing track. In Philadelphia and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, casinos have been approved to replace a hazardous waste site and an abandoned factory.

“What’s clearly going on here is that the communities that have approved these are much poorer communities” than the likes of Milford, says Richard McGowan, a professor of economics at Boston College and a casino expert. When they consider the alternatives—“a prison, a nuclear power plant—most people think that casinos overall are good for a community when they replace things that are tired or old,” says Bob Jarvis, a gaming expert and law professor at Nova Southeastern Law School in Florida.

Other casinos are in largely nonresidential neighborhoods of cities such as New Orleans, on remote tribal land free from the authority of voters and elected local officials, or in rural areas. But as more are proposed in densely populated states, gaming experts say, finding places to put them is becoming more contentious.

“Overall, people are not uncomfortable with gaming,” says Steve Rittvo, a principal with the casino consulting firm the Innovation Project Group. “But people also realize that you don’t necessarily need to be the host community to get that spinoff of the impacts of it.”

42 comments
LaurieAlderman
LaurieAlderman

I wish I had seen this article earlier!  The focus of the article seems to be on the East Coast, when our county in California, just had a 3000 slot, off-reservation casino, that the bogus tribe reservation shopped next to a freeway that had major improvements recently completed by CalTrans.    It's against Prop. 1A of 2000, for tribes to reservation shop, yet because of top-level politicians having financial interests tied to the casino, the tribe has 230 plus acres of land.  There has never been a "Graton Rancheria" Indian live on the current reservation.  The highest population living on the original Rancheria was 3 families.  Restoration of the tribe was based on that they wanted 1 acre for a reservation in Graton.  The Rancheria is 10 miles away from Graton.  Despite a lawsuit, the mega-casino recently opened, paving the way for more off-reservation casinos in California.  Every politician at the local, county, and state level (even Governor Jerry Brown is "good buddies" with a main casino investor, Darius Anderson) has money now in their pockets from the casino.    The county even voted against the casino being built here, but through the state and casino connections, that vote didn't matter.  The mega-casino opened in November.  Crime has increased in the area.  Christmas Eve day, an elderly man was beaten to the point of a severe head injury and robbed at the casino.  For more information about the opposition to Graton Casino, see Stop Graton Casino facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Graton-Casino/304162052096

RichyBocaz
RichyBocaz

US People not Americans. America is not just one country. The New World, America, the continent.

sltahoe88
sltahoe88

I've read that farm bankruptcies were up 300% after riverboat gambling was allowed on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. This alone would be a good reason not to allow casinos in your back yard. It's OK to have to travel a few hundred miles to gamble your life savings away but please don't build it so I can have dinner there every night. People need to get out of the gambling environment to think rationally: if I really want to take another advance on my already nearly maxed out credit card. 

WakeUpUSA
WakeUpUSA

I grew up going to Atlantic City as a child  (yes saw the girl on the pony jump out of the box).

Went there in 2005.Like The Great Chaos had come and gone. All that glitters and was alive was inside the big beckoning buildings. Inside the ac couldn't cover the stench of desperation,and hopelessness, or the death of the spirit. Those who had run out of the only commodity -were those who kept the designated feet away from the portals- and like one lost man did on the old tired boards did-cried out to God unceasingly-TAKE ME GOD WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME? TAKE ME.  and that is what casinos do to 99% of the  once bright eyed" I'll only do it for fun and I won't spend over $20.00" bush league-rs.

ntesta31
ntesta31

The reality is, the criticism of gambling makes no logical sense. Critics constantly bring the same tired lines about "increased crime" and  addicts losing everything, but this is not true. Casinos do not bring increased crime at all, and 99% of those who visit casinos are not addicts, they are people enjoying themselves risking THEIR money that you have no right to tell them what to do with. Sure some people get addicted, the same way people get addicted to drinking, smoking, or even shopping. Millions of people nationwide are going into debt this month spending thousands of dollars at shopping malls for Christmas, I don't see anyone criticizing that. These critics have never actually been to a casino ,you just believe false stereotypes. If you visited one, you would see they are large entertainment complexes where gambling is only part of the fun that is there.

swg333tx
swg333tx

The casinos that Memphis didn't want have helped Tunica County, MS immensely.  New schools, roads, apartment complexes, and steady employment at good paying jobs.  Crime - nope.  New sheriff' cars and equipment.  Are the local folks getting fleeced of their money?  Nope - it's the people from Memphis who drive down to gamble. Fine with me!

RichardWatkins
RichardWatkins

You can go into a casino and win occasionally, but over time the averages will catch up with you and the casino will beat you. Meanwhile, over time you will get addicted to games of chance, such as slots or video poker. Those who get addicted will eventually, over time, lose their money. Once they need a source of money to support the addiction, they either (a) take it away from necessary family needs, or (b) steal or embezzle it. Embezzlement has become much more of a problem in areas where casinos are available. This is what I refer to as an increase in crime...not direct casino-related crime per se, but rather crime committed by those addicted to gambling. I know of what I speak because I have had two family members addicted to casino gambling and let me tell you, it is like crack cocaine.

KarlKilian
KarlKilian

Native American tribes need to stop focusing on casinos and start bringing in REAL jobs for their members.

DavidHollenshead
DavidHollenshead

Casinos do not bring in the employment their proponents claim and the money they make leaves the area.

The crime from problem gamblers does effect the local community and stolen money lost at the casino is lost forever. 

Strangely this is the one time stolen property can't be recovered by the victim.

SteveNorton
SteveNorton

NIMBY, Not In My Back Yard, was present in New Jersey's 1974 referendum to approve casino gaming, loosing by 60% TO 40%. But a positive vote would have allowed any NJ county to approve casino gaming with a succeeding county only vote. Two years later, with casinos restricted to a dying sea side resort, Atlantic City, 57% of the statewide voters said yes. The issues most concerning voters, when casino are mentioned, is mob influence, crime, compulsive gambling and traffic congestion. But because of the tough entry requirements to obtain a casino license today, organized crime is out of the question and crime and traffic congestion have to do with new commerce, not casino gaming. Today's article mentions Florida's effort to consider resort casinos, and Disney's efforts to stop it. Interestingly crime is a much larger problem in Orlando, with all of the wonderful family attractions (Disney World, Epcot, Sea World and Universal) has higher violent and property crime rates than Las Vegas or Atlantic City. And in AC, even though crime increased by 300%, visitors increased by 875% (from 4 to 35 million), and commuting workers by another 40,000 plus, so in fact an individual was 70% less likely to be a victim than AC BC (Atlantic City before casinos). But offsetting the negative side, voters in a casino referendum can expect a substantial number of new jobs, significant construction, more tax revenues and out of state tourism; and in Massachusetts, a return of current resident spending from casinos in Connecticut and Rhode Island.       

NansonHwa
NansonHwa

Gaming is just another form of entertainment but is addicting like television and spectator sports. However in gaming, the victim bets his or her money in hopes of winning when the odds are not in their favor. The money drops into the landfill pockets of the Native Americans, casino owners, federal and state taxing authorities and banks.

Aspblom
Aspblom

Gambling caused the downfall of the Roman Empire; it was gambling that brought in the "barbarians" that defeated the empire.

It was gambling that attracted the Moslem Turks to Constantinople, which they then seized destroying the Greek civilization there.  

 It was gambling that defeated Hitler since his army just could not get away from the gaming tables.

   It was gambling that caused the Native Americans to be defeated by Spanish speakers and lose the US southwest to Spain which Mexico the tried to keep for its own.

Aspblom
Aspblom

Every town should have gambling. Gambling should be required of every adult.

MartianHorde
MartianHorde

I lived about 2.5 miles from a Casino in Tulsa, Ok for 2 years. No crime problems. No Traffic problems. Those arguments are a bunch of hooey. The only way you'll have a crime problem is if you had one already. I.e., bad neighborhoods close-by,etc.

JedidiahTmj
JedidiahTmj

Casinos attract suckers. The criminal element is not the worst part of living near a casino. The worst part is all of the idiots that work there and gamble there. The stupid permeates the community. It leads to things like high car insurance, high dropout rates, and high teen pregnancy rates.

humtake
humtake

Sorry, but the whole criminal aspect of casinos is just glorified Hollywood that people can't even think for themselves enough to realize there is no increase in crime other than what is committed on the properties, which isn't much and is usually less than quickie mart property.  But because Hollywood made movies all about the seedy side of casinos and such people ACTUALLY believe them.  If you aren't in organized crime and don't go the casino every day, you won't see crime.  Now, maybe in the small cities with no casinos you may get some because of the influx of new people, so yeah smaller cities aren't really the best place.  But bigger cities with lots of deterrent money do not see an increase in crime because the infrastructure is already developed enough to absorb it.


We got a casino 10 years ago or so and many of us wish they would make more due to competition.  Vegas you get free alcohol, here you don't because there is only one casino.  No increased crime.  Over 600 jobs gained for the city.  There is not one negative that any opposition can provide that contains any proof; which I love because when someone does try to talk about how bad the casino is, you ask them to show the proof and they just continue to argue.  Sorry, but the numbers don't lie.

FredSchmertz
FredSchmertz

anyone who studies history knows an empire in decline is already past the point of return when it sells what little etics and morals it has left.  Vice ~ drink, drug, gambling and sex - they sell it all off before its completely gone.  But these things are more prevalent at the very end.  Thats where we are US and A.  Now you will see the split that has been prophesied - different parts of the country will be auctioned off to the highest or most committed bidders.  

emil.posavac
emil.posavac

We know what ills follow casinos. How's Atlantic City doing after it adopted casinos? And, no one should be fooled about "economic" activity; casinos do not promote economic well-being, they siphon money off existing businesses.

JohnJackson
JohnJackson

When is this madness going to stop, I guess there are a lot of poor people out there who likes casino's.  When are these people going to save money instead of spend?


j1f
j1f

" powerful interests including the Walt Disney Company, intent on preserving the region’s reputation as a family destination"

awww you are adorably naive. 

BarbaraGordon
BarbaraGordon

It's important  to note that Voters in Washington County Maine overwhelmingly voted to allow a casino, contrary to what the article suggests. The proposal was Narrowly voted down statewide because progressive busybodies in Southern Maine and "Protect our own" voters in Western Maine and Bangor (Where Casinos already exist) voted to kill the proposal. 

WasntMee
WasntMee

Iowa's farmers faced the same issue. Should they allow a casino to operate in a small casino. Have to tell you that it is a widely accepted deal now with competition from all smaller townships. Nary a crime or anything at all. My in laws try to go monthly and the old geezer just loves to gamble. If you don't have crime, then don't worry about it. You will be fine.  If you do have crime now, then don't worry about it. Casino's tend to clean up crime around their area in these smaller towns by adding much needed tax revenue.

GregBringle
GregBringle

If you're voting against casinos, you shouldn't get any benefits.  Sorry, but you're demonizing the industry and telling it to go somewhere else.  Why should you get money from them after treating them like crap?

only1side
only1side

Some of the information in this article is very one sided, it almost reads as a slam to tribal gaming facilities. One thing is true, FL State Regulatory Authority (DBPR) does everything it can to keep the competitor down, in this case the Florida Seminole and Musukee tribes. For the longest time there has been a double standard between state and tribal casinos in Florida. Also, you have failed to mention the many small towns that the gaming industry has saved, such as black hawk in Colorado. A small mining town that barly made it off of tourism in the CO mountains, now a thriving gambling community.

sltahoe88
sltahoe88

@swg333tx Are you sure the locals haven't been fleeced? Usually happens when casinos come to town.

WakeUpUSA
WakeUpUSA

@SteveNortonhave you actually gone to the boards and viewed the obvious disparity? With all the money that seems to be enriching the community, why does it still look like sh* t where they used to hold Miss America? ( but excuse me I haven't been there in years- however-after a long absence-that is the first thing I-as a compassionate and fair human being noticed when I went there and saw the casinos for the first time)

Maybe that storm took alot of things away for a reason. Maybe it was a message.

RyansTimeDotCom
RyansTimeDotCom

But it was also gambling that led to the invention of modern medicine.

It was gambling that prevented the 3rd, 4th and 5th World Wars.

And only by gambling can you prevent cancer, feed the poor and shelter the homeless.

swg333tx
swg333tx

@JedidiahTmj Did you make all that up?  Have you ever been to a casino?  I'll bet (pun intended) the answers are 1-yes and 2-no.  

mmarks
mmarks

@JedidiahTmjWhat stupid remarks! The Indian casinos in Oklahoma are clean, well-run, fully staffed and mostly provide entertainment for senior citizens. My husband and I go three or four times a year for the buffet and a few hours at the penny slots. We enjoy ourselves and we've any done worse than break-even.

hummingbird06
hummingbird06

@JedidiahTmj What do you mean "the idiots who work there"? I don't know of any "idiots" at our local casino. They all seem like decent, hard-working people. And, in the four years they've been operating, our car insurance (?) hasn't gone up. No greater number of dropouts or teen pregnancies either. Where do you get these ideas?

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

@humtake I always love the argument that the prostitutes will show up... Like a city police who have the city under control will all of a sudden lose a couple blocks in a high access area

PatriotEngineerAnalyst
PatriotEngineerAnalyst

@FredSchmertz 


Dear Fred: I study history almost daily.  I have learned much from my academic pursuits.


But, what I don't do is believe the ridiculous prophecies of ancient books that were written by mortal men who thought the world was flat and their idea of a technological innovation was a wheelbarrow. 


It is apparent you are paranoid of human behavior that has been around since man exited caves (yes, that was long before your heroes....the same heroes that thought the Earth is the center of the universe, and the same ones who condoned slavery and had absolutely no idea what a molecule is).  


I regret to inform you this behavior (vice) will ALWAYS be around, no matter what happens.  History tells us the behavior can be effectively controlled and minimized using appropriate laws and enforcement.



humtake
humtake

@emil.posavac Yeah, tell that to my friends who support kids off of the salary they make at the local casino.

MichaelDubanowski
MichaelDubanowski

@j1fThey must be referring to the Mickey kiddie cash casinos they disguise as amusement parks!

RyansTimeDotCom
RyansTimeDotCom

The problem is, most people don't notice they're getting fleeced until it's too late... Give it time

sltahoe88
sltahoe88

@ntesta31 @KarlKilian The jobs are real but with the casinos in the back yards of the native American workers, I suspect the money they earn goes back into the casinos as wagers in slots or table games.

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