The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

August 24, 2007

Mark Liston: Weighing the effects of gambling

A recent article on the front page of The Joplin Globe began, “Area dignitaries on Tuesday praised the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma’s plans for a $200 million casino and hotel as an investment that could boost the economy of the entire area.”

As I read of 1,200 new jobs and a payroll of more than $50 million, I could see why my fellow members of the Joplin Chamber of Commerce would be excited. My feelings were mixed. In my upbringing and experience, gambling has always been associated with crime, dishonesty, losing lots of money, addiction, and poverty. I thought perhaps my training was wrong, that I was shortsighted and not progressive, and that I needed to have an open mind to this new area “business.”

Numerous friends have said they go to casinos and plan to lose a certain dollar amount and stop there. They make it sound harmless enough. I decided to do a little research to see what the possible benefits of such a large enterprise might have on the local economy. Also, as a professional counselor, I wanted to know what effect the big casino might have on the quality of life for marriages, families and the community.

I didn’t have to look very far to find an abundance of information. A quick Internet search of “gambling casinos business” produced both instructions about gambling and critiques of its pros and cons. The pros were mostly projective, promising new jobs, more tax revenue, and more traffic in local businesses. The cons were mostly the experiences of communities that had brought in casinos and researchers and their findings. The latter group’s information was startling. Regarding the impact of gambling on business, tax revenue and employment, I learned:

* A U.S. Judiciary Hearing in 1995 stated that for every 1 job created by a gambling interest, 1 to 2.75 jobs were lost within 35-mile radius.

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