We know the proposed site of the casino. We know about the state voter approved gaming compact and how the Tohono O’odham acquired the land. Is a casino is healthy for an urbanized area?
There is one disclaimer however. I am not commenting on the casino as a social justice issue. For this discussion this issue is not about the white man having treated Indians badly over several hundred years. It’s not about owing Tribes for past wrongs. Today’s society has crafted many solutions for ameliorating social injustice. What this is about is whether a casino, whether owned by Las Vegas interests, Atlantic City interests or the Tribes, is a good thing within a major city. Glendale is a major city with a population of nearly a quarter of a million people. It is the fourth largest city in the state. It definitely qualifies as an urban area within the Phoenix metropolitan area.
How is crime related to a casino? Does crime go up, go down or stay the same? 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, “We examine the relationship between casinos and crime using county-level data for the United States between 1977 and 1996. Casinos were nonexistent outside Nevada before 1978, and expanded to many other states during our sample period. Most factors that reduce crime occur before or shortly after a casino opens, whereas those that increase crime, including problem and pathological gambling, occur over time. The results suggest that the effect on crime is low shortly after a casino opens, and grows over time. Roughly 8% of crime in casino counties in 1996 was attributable to casinos, costing the average adult $75 per year.
“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.
“This translates into a social crime cost associated with casinos of $75 per adult in 1996. This ﬁgure does not include other social costs related to casinos, such as crime in neighboring counties, direct regulatory costs, costs related to employment and lost productivity, and social service and welfare costs. Overall, 8.6% of property crime and 12.6% of violent crime in counties with casinos was due to the presence of the casino.
“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.”
Since this study was published in 1996 many pro casino interests have attempted to debunk it. Be that as it may, this is a definitive study that has been repeatedly cited by many reputable public policy groups in attempting to determine the benefits and negatives of a casino.
- Decrease in meals and room taxes away from other, traditional sources (a shifting of tax revenue away from hotels and restaurants such as Westgate, toward gambling facilities)
- Visitors and residents spend money on gambling that would be spent on other goods and services (known as “substitution”)
- The state will have increased expenses related to expansion of personnel to accommodate the new facility
- Creates an atmosphere of increased competition for state investments and subsidies
- Shifts workers currently in one industry to the gambling industry (known as “displacement”). This new development may take workers from other industries and moves them into the casino industry
- Social costs increase related to increased crime and pathological gambling
- Significant potential political influence from a single industry
This New Hampshire study also offered, “For a standard casino, most patrons come from within 30 miles and participation declines exponentially as distance increases. These markets do not conform to state or other political boundaries.”
Another issue identified by the study said, “In casino markets like Las Vegas and Atlantic City 8-10% of casino patrons are ‘problem gamblers” (National Opinion Research Center, 2000). A person is not going to have a problem unless they have access to gambling. Proximity to a casino impacts propensity to gamble. Proximity to a casino (e.g. within 50 miles) increases the risk of pathological problems (National Opinion Research Center, 2000). Problem gambling will impact communities closest to the gambling venue and decrease the further away you are.”
In addition, “An analysis by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission shows that scratch ticket sales have declined in the last six months of 2012 in the region of New Hampshire closest to the Oxford County casino.”
This New Hampshire study raises issues not previously discussed publicly such as a diminishment of state lottery sales in the geographic region closest to a casino or that pathological gambling increases in the geographic area closest to the casino.
What about the issue of traffic? 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, “that 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.” Many transportation agencies in many states where casinos have located have done similar studies. All recommend new transportation infrastructure whose costs are borne by taxpayers.
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. In Glendale a traffic impact analysis study was done for Westgate and the University of Phoenix Stadium. As a result of those studies, additional traffic mitigation was created and paid for by the developers of those projects. There is no mechanism to compel the Tohono O’odham to enhance road infrastructure in the area. As a sovereign nation there is no local, state or federal mechanism to compel another nation (think of it as another country) to reimburse the costs of enhanced transportation infrastructure to and from their site.
In return for the problems created by a casino in an urban area, supporters of the casino continually use the mantra of (1) it will pump up business in the adjoining local area. They say that customers will leave the casino environment and move to Westgate to eat and to shop. I doubt the restaurants and hotels, or Tanger Outlet Mall in Westgate would agree with that notion. More likely, customers with limited disposable income will make choices and it will be one or the other – Westgate or the casino – not both; and (2) it will bring jobs – temporary construction jobs and later, permanent jobs servicing the casino. Keep in mind, 25% of the jobs created, whether temporary construction jobs or permanent service jobs later, are reserved for Native Americans. At Talking Stick Casino, “Chanen Construction, which has worked with Casino Arizona for 14 years, divided the enormous job of sheet-rocking the interior and exterior into 10 different bid packages. This resulted in five firms getting the work, instead of one, which is the norm. But Chanen wanted ‘to maximize opportunities for different project participants,’ the company told McGraw-Hill Construction in a profile of Talking Stick published last fall. ‘We have a process where we let tribal members who own businesses participate as subcontractors, so we want to make the packages in smaller bites so more participation could occur’.”
The Tohono O’odham has said repeatedly there will be 6,000 construction jobs. The Maryland Live! Casino is a 332,500 square foot facility (twice the size of the proposed TO casino) and anticipates creating 2,750 construction-related jobs (half that number would be approximately 1,400 jobs and reportedly a much more realistic number for this facility). In an effort to “sell” the benefits of the casino, it is quite possible numbers have been inflated. It is a subtle form of deception, no doubt, but not unexpected considering the TO’s actions with regard to Proposition 202.
Problems throughout the country related to casino construction have surfaced. Here is but one example – a Press Release from a coalition of unions in California issued on January 15, 2013, “ROHNERT PARK, CA: Graton Rancheria’s (my note: a coalition of Indian tribes) promises to Sonoma County union workers have been dashed by lay-offs of local union members as out-of-area workers are being brought in to take their places. Sonoma County union construction workers report that workers are being brought in from “Nevada and the L.A. area” and even as far away as Alabama to work on the Graton Rancheria casino/hotel project in Rohnert Park.
Reports started as early as November, as a local member of the Carpenters Union raised the first alarm about locals being replaced by out-of-area workers. Now the complaints are coming from a union cement worker who believes that approximately 70% of the casino workforce is made up of the out-of-towners.”
Those who think the casino is the answer to Glendale’s problems, will dismiss the arguments made in this blog and take this as an opportunity to respond in the negative. As long as comments are respectful of one another and deal with the issue at hand, they will be posted as responses to this blog.
In the next blog we will look at the legal issues and a basket full of attorneys involved in the casino issue.