In an interview earlier this week on Today’s THV, Texas businessman Michael J. Wasserman—the sponsor of the recently approved casino ballot proposal—said that bringing his casinos to Arkansas is “necessary because of the economy.” Even as Mr. Wasserman talked about how his casinos would bring 20,000 new jobs to Arkansas, I couldn’t help but think about how much casinos hurt local economies. It’s as if he wants Arkansans to sign his petition and vote for casinos come November because we have no choice—this is the only way to bring our economy up.
Not true. Branson, Missouri is a great example of how to bring in tourism dollars, create jobs, and stimulate the economy without bringing in gambling. As a matter of fact, at one point there was an attempt to bring casinos to Branson, but that proposal was rightfully defeated. It was decided that widespread gambling just didn’t fit the Branson image. And let me tell you, they have been the better for their decision. Branson doesn’t have casinos and it’s one of the most visited family entertainment spots in the country. There’s no reason why such development couldn’t happen in Arkansas.
Let’s take a closer look at Mr. Wasserman’s claim and discuss whether casinos actually help local economies and benefit the community. First of all, we know that whenever casinos come into an area, crime steadily rises year after year. Second, casinos—just like the lottery—feed on the idea that you will “win big.” This is an especially attractive concept to the poorest among us, who may decide to take their rent or grocery money to the casino to become a millionaire. The hard reality is that their economic situation gets even worse.
If a casino petition comes your way, ask yourself, “Are casinos really something we want to bring to Arkansas?” There are better ways to stimulate the economy, as Branson has clearly shown. What we don’t need is a businessman from out-of-state writing himself into our constitution and setting up casinos. If they are a bad bet for our poor, then they shouldn’t be acceptable to any of us.
Check out yesterday’s blog post to read more about the social and economic problems casinos bring: http://familycouncil.org/?p=762
Jerry is the founder and president of Family Council. He began Family Council in 1989 after a successful effort to amend the Arkansas Constitution to prevent the use of public funds for abortions. He and his wife reside in Little Rock. They have four sons.