The Pressure is on Virginia
The completion of Maryland’s National Harbor Hotel and Casino, just across the river from residential Virginia, has applied pressure upon Virginia to stop the flow of bettors over the river and add their own casinos. The arguments on both sides of the debate are familiar. Those who cannot afford it frequently lose large amounts of money, money that should have been used for household and family expenses. Americans refuse to believe that the house edge of eight percent or so will ultimately take all their money.
The casino is betting on a sure thing unless it is extremely poorly managed or there is too much nearby competition. The selling points are tax revenues and jobs. The politicians ignore the source of the money and pretend that welfare costs won’t increase. The jobs turn out to have varying shifts and high stress for relatively low pay, often just a $15 an hour. Many conservatives have jumped on the casino bandwagon in recent years, rationalizing that the gamblers are personally responsible to resist the temptation to gamble. This ignores the powerful incentives offered to gamblers by the casinos, and the various addictive ploys used to keep them playing longer than they planned.
Saying the government has no responsibility to protect gamblers from themselves ignores that the government seeks to prevent violent crimes, drunk driving, cigarette smoking, and driving without a seat belt. Once again, we must point out that states can only ignore the tremendous cost to the state because the benefits are public and easy to see: Jobs and taxes. The costs, which even conservative estimates place at figures much higher than the benefits, are borne by private citizens, the families of addicted gamblers. They suffer the loss of homes, jobs, income, security, and the break-up of the family.
It is too late for Virginia. Look around the area. West Virginia casinos are stagnate. Five of New Jersey’s thirteen casinos have closed. Both of Connecticut’s casinos have declining income. The average amount of time that new casinos boost revenue is now below two years. The economic dream days are over.
Alex Brandon, “Editorial: Casinos a bad bet for Virginia,” http://www.fredericksburg.com/opinion/editorials/
December 21, 2016.