ICMA article analyzes benefits of gambling
Is gambling a safe bet for communities looking to improve their economies? That is the central question explored in an article written by the Washington-based International City/County Management Association (ICMA), which is an excerpt from ICMA’s “Economic Development: Strategies for State and Local Practice, 2nd Edition,” which was released in August.
Gambling has become more acceptable to government officials now, according to the article, and some view lotteries, racetracks, casinos and electronic games as a source of funding that can provide jobs with good benefits to people who are unemployed or underemployed, according to the article. “To become legitimized, however, gambling must change from being perceived a social problem to an ethically neutral form of entertainment or even a positive force for economic development,” the article states. “Government has helped in this transformation by openly promoting various forms of state gambling, such as lotteries and numbers games.”
The article cites data from the Albany, N.Y.-based Rockefeller Institute that shows state revenue from gaming has risen steadily from 1998 to 2007 and totaled $23.3 billion in fiscal 2007. “The Rockefeller Institute concluded that from a fiscal perspective, state-sponsored gambling resembles a blue-chip stock — reliably generating large amounts of cash but no longer promising dramatic growth,” the article states. “Concerns over the social costs from pathological gambling nevertheless were also seen as a continuing issue that dampened growth [of gambling enterprises].”
Those social costs include negative life choices supposedly linked to problem or pathological gambling, including suicide, divorce, homelessness, and family abuse or neglect. Behavior associated with adolescent problem or pathological gambling includes alcohol and drug use, truancy, low grades, and illegal activities to finance gambling, according to the article.
In its conclusion, the article maintains that parties who stand to gain economically from gambling usually support it. “Elected government leaders often see gambling as a means of solidifying the city’s economic base by bringing suburbanites to a moribund downtown area,” the article states. “Bureaucrats in agencies that are promised gaming revenue often support gambling to pay for agency activities. Owners of large casinos tend to support gambling when they will benefit from the operation but oppose it if they view it as competition.” In the end, using gaming “as a legitimate tool of economic development will depend largely on the resolution of conflicts among competing perspectives,” the article states.