I belong to a neighborhood website that encompasses my area as well as about a dozen other subdivisions adjacent to Westgate and the Tohono O’odham temporary casino (currently under construction). A few days ago a conversational thread began on the site reflecting residents’ opinions regarding the effects of a casino near all of us. About 7 people have posted their opinions to date. I feel compelled to dispel some of their assumptions.

A local realtor in the Westgreen Estates subdivision said, “I do not recall any values going down as a result of a casino being built.” It’s one of the first questions you hear when someone wants to build a casino somewhere near you. That question is what’s it going to do to my property value?

There is now enough data from other areas of the country and their experiences with a casino to prove property values are impacted negatively from a nearby casino. From American Attitudes on Development comes, “A nuclear power plant, while the least-favored type of power plant, would still be preferable to a landfill, a casino, or an aggregate quarry.” A Foxboro, Maine resident and realtor for 23 years offered this in an op-ed in the Foxboro Sun Chronicle, March 11, 2012. Foxborough was facing the prospect of a casino in its community. Based on his 23 years of real estate experience he said, A casino is controversial. Anything controversial will cause some home buyers to exclude Foxboro and surrounding towns. This potential reduction in buyers will negatively affect the price and resale of homes here.” He went on to say, “A casino will change the demographics and feel of the town. The casino developer is setting aside funds to deal with the increased need in law enforcement the casino will bring. Many families moved to Foxboro because of the community feel. Any significant change in crime, drug abuse, alcohol abuse and, domestic violence, or any other demographics will change the feel and fabric of Foxboro and surrounding towns.”  A 2013 study by economists belonging to the National Association of Realtors concluded that, “the impact of casinos was ‘unambiguously negative’ on a housing market.”

I can hear the outrage from casino supporters now but the fact remains, while they support the casino, few property owners (including casino supporters) actually want to live near this casino. Most people understand that, at the very least, a casino operates 24/7 and will lead to an increase in crime, traffic congestion, drunken drivers, trash, tour buses and road noise – and that these things will be ultimately reflected in a reduction in property values.

None of the local resident responses asked about a casino and its effect on crime rates. Yet it is another area of concern. The following is an Abstract entitled Casinos, Crime and Community Costs by Earl L. Grinols and David B. Mustard, originally published in 1996 but this excerpt is from the Review of Economics and Statistics (February 2006). The authors say,“Casinos increased all crimes except murder, the crime with the least obvious connection to casinos. Most offenses showed that the impact of casinos on crime increased over time, a pattern very consistent with the theories of how casinos affect crime. The crime-ameliorating effects of casinos through increased employment opportunities and wages for low-skilled people will be concentrated shortly after opening. Between 5.5% and 30% of the different crimes in casino counties can be attributed to casinos.

“According to the study, five years after a casino opens, robbery in the community goes up 136 percent, aggravated assault is up 91 percent, auto theft is up 78 percent, burglary is up 50 percent, larceny is up 38 percent, rape is up 21 percent and murder is up 12 percent, compared to neighboring communities. Crime-lowering effects, like additional police and the new jobs represented by a casino are overwhelmed by rising crime increased by the presence of the casino, according to the study.”

Locals responding on this thread believed that traffic would be manageable. A resident of Westgreen Estates subdivision said, “We have enough open space to adapt to any increase traffic (sic).” A Rovey Farm subdivision resident said, “A quick drive around the other casinos in the valley will show you what kind of traffic to expect. (Not much).”

The Connecticut South Western Regional Planning Agency issued a Casino Traffic Impact Study in 2009.  “The purpose of this study was to estimate the possible traffic and air quality impacts of the development of a casino in Bridgeport.” The study concluded, “the development of a casino would have a significant impact on traffic congestion in southwestern Connecticut. Casino traffic is not seasonal because the number of trips to and from casinos is relatively consistent from month to month. Casinos operate 24 hours per day; there is no peak travel period to and from casinos thus traffic impacts of casinos may be experienced at all times of day.”

The increased traffic in the area will not just be due to the number of visitors to the casino. Add to that, traffic from employees as well as vendors and suppliers making deliveries with their semis at all hours of the day and night. Many transportation agencies in many states where casinos have located have done similar studies. All of these transportation studies recommend new transportation infrastructure whose costs are borne by you – the taxpayers. Increased traffic in our area will not be the result of an occasional Cardinals football game. Instead imagine that kind of traffic every day of the year, 24/7.

Yet other studies demonstrate sales tax revenue moving from other, traditional sources to a casino. In essence there is a shifting of sales tax revenue away from hotels and restaurants such as in Westgate, toward gambling facilities. Visitors and residents spend money on gambling that would otherwise be spent on other goods and services. This effect is known as “substitution.” There is also a shift of workers currently in one industry to the gambling industry. This is known as “displacement.”  This new development will take workers from other industries and move them into the casino industry. A New Hampshire study also offered, “For a standard casino, most patrons come from within 30 miles and participation declines exponentially as distance increases.”

So, respondents from Provence, Rovey Farm and Westgreen Estates, to the thread of discussion about casino impacts, be careful what you wish for. Then again, if you don’t mind a reduction in your property value, increased crime and increased traffic congestion, continue to welcome this casino that will most assuredly change the long treasured fabric of our community.

© Joyce Clark, 2015


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