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The Pros and Cons and Unknowns of Casinos

Based on the findings in other communities, there is reason to proceed with concern. If we want to know if casinos are delivering goods here in Massachusetts, let’s find out.

After all the hoopla, Massachusetts lawmakers passed a Bill that allows us to have casinos. There was a lot of talk and debate about the pros and the cons of casinos in Massachusetts - are casinos good for our communities or not? Here is a summary of the arguments.

First, what do we mean by good or bad? Casinos have good aspects to them and some bad aspects. The research showed that depending on what issue we are curious about, it depends.

Generally speaking, the pros gambling, according to the pro-gambling site www.777.com, are tourism, employment, charity and entertainment and tax revenues. And a Yale study found some health benefits for older Americans in terms of increased activity level and enjoyment.

The cons of gambling are that they are associated with higher suicide rates, bad for compulsive gamblers or those with that personality trait, an increase in personal bankruptcies, the breakup of some families. There are six different kinds of gamblers but only two are problem gamblers according towww.overcominggambling.com. Should a few ruin it for everyone? What if the latter two categories are the majority? We really would need to know Massachusetts’ rates to make a decision.

I found one research paper that looked at several studies concluded that, contrary to common belief, there is little evidence that casinos are associated with higher crime rates. And another researcher at UNLV found that online gambling on sports in America has surpassed the total handle of Las Vegas casino-based sports books, so what’s the harm? The Nevada Gaming Revenue Report, December 2009 states that the win rate for slot machines was 6.1percent and for table games 12.04 percent. I could wonder if people here would still gamble as much on those venues if they knew the odds. I suspect, yes.

There have been lots of promises of job creation and economic development. And there has been a lot of concern about social ills that come with casinos.

So what should we expect from casinos specifically in Massachusetts?

Casinos operate on odds, probability and statistics – and the house always wins. I say, we should learn something from an approach that always wins.

Since there are legitimate concerns, we should have measures in place that will alert us to problems in communities. Measurements are about facts – what trends are going on in the real world. We should determine what we value, what we want and expect to get and hope not to get from casinos. From the very beginning we should collect the right data so we can answer the questions we want to know — is the casino making us worse off in some areas and are we realizing benefits in others; how can we mitigate the problems; and what is the tipping point when we won’t tolerate casinos anymore, as Massachusetts recently did with greyhound racing?

Just because a casino hires 2,000 employees, it does not necessarily mean that 2,000 jobs were created in Massachusetts. We need to look at net job growth. If casinos hire new employees and these employees just come from other businesses and those businesses don’t hire new employees as a way to cut costs, then there is no net job growth. Net job growth is what politicians don’t tell you when they talk about their accomplishments.

We need to not just measure outputs, which are very basic and not always useful; we need to measure outcomes, which look at changes compared to another equal but non-affected group. Outcome measures have to be set up well in advance and often take at least a couple of years to get results. If measures show we are getting what we want, good; if measures show we are not getting what we want, or getting what we don’t’ want, it is good that we know that, too. Proper measurement is a win-win, regardless of the results, while results based on measures not properly done are useless.

If we want to know if casinos are good for us or bad for us, politicians and leaders must keep in mind that good measurement leads to confidence in results; bad measures lead to no confidence in results. Politicians need to remember that meaningless accountability does nothing other than undermine citizens’ confidence in government and future efforts at meaningful accountability. Citizens need to remember that politicians generally don’t know much about statistics and should be extra careful when listening to politicians advocating either direction.

Based on the findings in other communities, there is reason to proceed with concern. If we want to know if casinos are delivering goods here in Massachusetts, let’s find out.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Brianna Slots March 22, 2012 at 07:41 AM
If the state has a high percentage of people who love to play free slots online http://www.doubledowncasino.com , they might consider having casinos to tap on the potential pros of gambling in casinos. Revenues are lost online to other parts of the country or overseas when players gamble online instead of a local casino. However, like what this article has said, more research needs to be done when it comes to the pros and cons of having casinos.
The truth June 08, 2013 at 06:15 PM
Casinos are like a black hole, it does not care what or whom it consumes. In the end the only thing that remains will be the casino, all small businesses will be gone, property value will decrease, crime will increase, illegal activities will increase, poverty will increase, drug use will increase, and in return the casino will win, they always win that's the business their in and that's to win. Meanwhile the state will get their millions in taxes from the casinos, and be forced to use that money to try and fix all the problems created by the casinos. As with everyone else the state will gamble and lose, because in the end the casinos always wins. The odds are against anyone who does business with the casinos and the only way to win is not to play!!!

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