Oaklawn and Southland are the only two establishments in Arkansas permitted to offer “electronic games of skill”—a fancy term for casino gambling performed electronically, usually through a video screen. However, even though Arkansas is currently limited to two traditional gambling venues, Oaklawn and Southland still drained nearly $2 billion from the state’s economy in 2011. Wagers were up 100% at Southland and 45% at Oaklawn compared to 2010. This is disconcerting for two primary reasons.

First of all, casinos by their very nature are a blight on the economy. Gambling takes dollars that had great potential to benefit the economy as a whole, and essentially keeps the money all in one place. That’s because instead of a useful product or service being purchased, a wager is made on a chance to win big, and that money is then used to offer more gambling and prizes. This results in all the cash wagered at casinos basically remaining at the casino—it does not help the overall economy like buying groceries or paying someone to mow your yard.

This a major problem no matter what, but especially during hard economic times, when people have even less money to spend. That’s why it’s rather disturbing that Oaklawn and Southland reaped historic profits last year. It just goes to show how gambling establishments exist to thrive and prey upon misery, promising that you’ll “hit the jackpot” and all your worries will go away. We know that this rarely happens. More often, the story is one of financial ruin for a person who risks it all. We don’t have to tell you how this ends up hurting the family and particularly children.

Don’t you think it’s time for all of us to admit that casinos do far more harm than good?