Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Some Questions about a New Gambling Study

This never happens, but I am actually covering breaking news.

The BJ posted tonight a story about a new study paid for by gambling proponents. The study purports to show that $11 billion will flow into our state if we allow casino gambling. Well, maybe not flow in, so much as flow within the state to a new destination.

According to ABJ, the projected numbers are as follows:

-$2.975 billion spent (i.e., lost) by Ohio residents in casinos. That includes "most of the $925 million" currently spent in neighboring states.

-$1 billion lost in casinos by out-of-state visitors

-$8 billion in "casino-related industries" like restaurants and hotels.

To me the benefits are clear as mud. First and foremost, the fact that you are sucking an additional $2 billion out of the productive economy and into gambling losses does not strike me as a selling point. Remember that we are talking about relocating money from working people to large corporations without any economic benefit to the folks losing the money.

In addition, I have some other questions:

-Of that $8 billion, how much comes from Ohioans staying home rather than visiting neighboring states, how much is from out-of-staters and how much from new gambling activity. The first two categories are arguably revenues that the Ohio economy is currently not generating. The third, however, is pure tradeoff. If someone spends $150 in bars, restaurants and hotels on a gambling weekend in Cleveland instead of a camping trip to Mohican, the net gain for the Ohio economy is zero.

-To the extent folks in rural areas are coming into cities to gamble, what is the effect on those local economies?

-Why are the out-of-state gamblers coming here? Are they here on business, visiting family, seeing other tourist sites? If so, we again have the tradeoff problem. If they are coming only to gamble, I am skeptical. In nealry every direction there are current gaming operations between people who don't have in-state gaming (Pennsylvania, Indiana and Kentucky) and us. How do we know people are going to pass up their customary spots for a shot at gaming in Toledo?

-What, if any, tradeoffs can we expect to see between newly legal gambling losses and money currently spent on Ohio's legal games of chance -- bingo, horse races and the lottery. Hey, don't laugh about bingo and the lottery. Remember that a huge slice of the casino's pie comes from slot machines -- the bane of the same blue-haired ladies who go to bingo night. If Mrs. Tinsdale down the street blows her mad money at the slots, she won't be at St. Michaels Tuesday night.

The Beacon Journal also noted a different study showing a projected 43 percent increase in gambling addiction if the current plan becomes reality.

It vexes me no end to be on the same side as an asshole like David Zanotti. But it also pisses me off that few liberals understand how fundamentally illiberal legalized casino gambling is. Check out my previous post for a review.