Opinion: If you want more poor Georgians, legalize casinos

There is only one sound reason for supporting the introduction of casinos in Georgia. And it has nothing to do with jobs, scholarships or shiny new buildings.

Those supposed benefits will be fleeting, if the experience of other states is any guide. No, the only sound reason to support legalizing casinos is if you believe Georgia needs more poor people.

Casino floors, like this one at a recently opened Harrah's in Murphy, N.C., could pop up in Georgia if a constitutional amendment is approved. (AJC Photo / Melissa Ruggieri)

Casino floors, like this one at a recently opened Harrah’s in Murphy, N.C., could pop up in Georgia if a constitutional amendment is approved. (AJC Photo / Melissa Ruggieri)

The one indisputable fact about casinos is the vast majority of people who walk into them leave with less money in their pockets and bank accounts. Everything else — about job creation, economic development and higher tax revenues — is speculative. Counting on those things is a roll of the dice.

For the people in other communities where the gambling industry has already arrived, those dice increasingly have been crapping out.

Despite what you might hear, this isn’t mostly about coaxing more money from the pockets of out-of-towners. If it were, we’d put some slot machines near the gates at Hartsfield-Jackson and be done with it.

As numerous academic studies show, the largest share of casino gambling revenues, anywhere from a plurality to a majority, come from a tiny number of so-called problem gamblers who live nearby. These aren’t conventioneers, tourists or wealthy folks with money to burn. They’re people already inclined to live at the margins of society.

Now, society is being asked to give them one last shove over the edge.

The gambling industry itself has cited studies indicating “only” 1 percent of American adults are problem gamblers. Considering the majority of these are bound to be concentrated in areas near a casino — other research suggests they tend to live within a 10-mile radius of casinos — this figure surely understates the magnitude of the problem in these areas. So does the fact it represents the narrowest definition of problem gambler. Other studies suggest the problem afflicts at least twice as many people.

But let’s take the industry’s preferred figure at face value and suppose a casino in metro Atlanta would lead “only” 1 percent of our people to develop a gambling problem. In a region of 5 million, that’s 50,000 people.

Fifty-thousand people who will be in greater danger of foreclosure or eviction. Fifty-thousand people whose marriages or relationships will be rocky or broken. Fifty-thousand people whose children will be more subject to neglect and abuse. Fifty-thousand people who will be more reliant on welfare programs and private charities.

Fifty-thousand people — plus the problem gamblers who would develop near the proposed second casino (which, given the language of the bill, would almost certainly be in Savannah).

The millions of dollars casino proponents dangle in front of you in the form of scholarships — including scholarships for low-income Georgians, their latest bauble — come from someone. The evidence is clear: The vast majority of that money would come from other Georgians, most of whom can’t afford it.

Speaking of that new scholarship program for poor Georgians: Isn’t that a rather ironic incentive to welcome an industry that would create more poor Georgians? I guess they know their market after all.

If the house always wins, everyone else on balance loses. Legislators, and their voters, need to ask themselves if they really believe a state can make itself more prosperous by making its people poorer.

Reader Comments 0

57 comments
Honested598
Honested598

Such garbage!!! It's called free-will! Lets close down all of the liquor stores too!! God knows how many lives booze kills!!!

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Agreed, as long as responsible Real Americans don't have to bail out the loser Democrats in any way.

Bruno2
Bruno2

Kyle:  "Legislators, and their voters, need to ask themselves if they really believe a state can make itself more prosperous by making its people poorer."

Kyle--Thank you for continuing to take a stand against casino gambling in GA.  Having seen first-hand the devastating effects that gambling can have on a family, I think we should look to other sources for new revenue.

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@Bruno2

But, but, but . . . "freedom" . . . "liberty" . . . "personal 'sponsibility."

I guess those things matter to a Con until they don't. Which is another way of saying that Con hypocrisy knows no bounds. SSDD, I guess.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Do let us know when you get serious about running government based on the understanding that we're responsible for ourselves and our families. We can then dismantle much of the failed welfare state with no complaint from the left.

Aquagirl
Aquagirl

Wow, we must protect people from themselves---looks like Kyle has gone nanny-state on us.

Bruno2
Bruno2

@Aquagirl So, should the state start selling fentanyl to willing addicts??

Aquagirl
Aquagirl

@Bruno2 That's a false equivalency. In this case privately owned casinos would be doing the selling. The question is not what the state should do, but what should the state allow.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Great--we don't have to protect people from themselves. Zero out tax payer spending for birth control, abortions, and kids Democrat voters can't support.

Starik
Starik

No comment on Trump's immigration bomb?

breckenridge
breckenridge

@Starik 


It was a Steve Bannon production.  There are radical activists, and then there is the next level - Steve Bannon.

Starik
Starik

@breckenridge @Starik Does Kyle have an opinion on this?  Is he aware of the controversy? It's much more important than casino gambling.

Aquagirl
Aquagirl

@Starik Have pity on Kyle. Trying to keep up with Trump's idiocy is quite a task. 

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Uh, aren't Democrats always trying to make everyone poorer through higher taxes? Everyone who works for a living and pays taxes, that is.

Hypocrite.

breckenridge
breckenridge

@Lil_Barry_Bailout 

Taxes? Well the Georgia lottery is basically income tax for the naive. But I can't figure out why these folks are always telling us the scholarship funds don't have any money.  The lottery brings in millions and millions and millions.  Hmm.  Maybe it's not on the up and up.

MarkVV
MarkVV

With nothing interesting happening (apparently) on the national scene, we are back to one of Kyle’s favorite subjects: casinos.

I have been in casinos a few times and found entertainment there, but I am not a gambler, the less a “problem gambler.” If a casino came to Atlanta, I would probably not even bother to visit. But I have friends who go to casinos occasionally for entertainment. And there is enough of a libertarian in me for Kyle’s paternalistic and moralistic comments to raise my hackles.

Look at this Kyle’s weird argument:

“The one indisputable fact about casinos is the vast majority of people who walk into them leave with less money in their pockets and bank accounts.”

Let’s ask Kyle this question: Please list all the professional entertainments, in which people who walk in leave with more (or even same) money in their pockets and bank accounts.

If spending money on entertainment compulsively is to be forbidden, should that not apply also to those who spend money they could use to feed their families and educate children buying tickets to NFL, NBA and MLB games?

bu22
bu22

@MarkVV Because the money goes a lot quicker and it goes in dribbles so its not as noticeable.  And I don't think there are hardly any poor or lower middle class people going to NFL or NBA games.  MLB isn't a cheap outing anymore either.  Casinos also tend to drive out other businesses as their goal is to never have their customers leave the building.  The lottery is bad too as it is the government promoting gambling addiction in a game that typically pays out worse than the worst casino game.

breckenridge
breckenridge

@bu22 @MarkVV 


Yes, the lottery is horrible.  And I've seen people slap down $200 for 10 tickets, tickets that cost $20 each.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Astropig @breckenridge @bu22 @MarkVV All those things – casinos, lottery- are “bad” for people who want them – apparently not including you. Where does your right to make the decision for them come from?

MarkVV
MarkVV

@bu22 @MarkVV Casinos also tend to drive out other businesses as their goal is to never have their customers leave the building.

Which is called “competition,” something at least conservatives love above anything else.

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

@breckenridge @bu22 @MarkVV  Who could forget the end o' the world predictions with which we were bombarded when Gov. Miller introduced the GA Lottery. Now, years later, we all survived and thousands of students have received college educations via the HOPE Scholarship program.

Casinos are coming, get used to the idea. If you choose not to gamble just don't go but don't try to impose your 'values' on everyone else.

bu22
bu22

@MarkVV @Astropig @breckenridge @bu22 The lottery is the government getting involved in gambling.  Last I checked it was our government.  Unfortunately, the majority is willing to let the government prey on (and encourage) people's gambling addictions instead of paying for what they want in a more straightforward way.

bu22
bu22

@stogiefogey @breckenridge @bu22 @MarkVV See you didn't comprehend Kyle's arguments.  Its not about "values."  Its about what is best for Georgia's citizens.  There are a lot of things the government could be involved in but should not.  It could promote prostitution, taking a cut to fund college scholarships.  It could have state owned "drug" stores where they sell heroin and cocaine with the proceeds going to worthy causes.  In this case, it promotes gambling that is one of the worst gambles out there, preying primarily on the poor to help primarily the middle class and well to do with college scholarships.  Casinos are not the government getting directly involved, but they aren't good for the state.  You can always go to Alabama.

breckenridge
breckenridge

And so it turns out that the multi-country ban on immigration was a Steve Bannon production.  No surprise there, Bannon is probably the most radical of the radical activists Trump has surrounded himself with.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

Good thing we have a conservative government on all branches to prevent this kind of non-sense from happening. That is unless they are bought from casino lobby money. Then we blame the liberals and/or media.

Astropig
Astropig

@McGarnagle


Republicans would be wise to drop this stupid idea.It is one of those unforced errors that they would live to regret.Take a look at who some of the biggest donors to the worst human being to ever serve in the U.S. Senate-Harry Reid


http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cycle=Career&cid=N00009922&type=I


He was literally buried in casino and casino workers-union money.They herded these poor jokers onto buses,gave them time off from work and sent them to vote for him again and again.Do Georgians really want to create another Harry Reid?


Republicans that push this deserve to be run out of office. The party deserves to be shown the door if they pursue these kinds of exploitative jobs over real jobs with real benefits for workers and communities.

Classof98
Classof98

You're right, there WILL be a lot more poor Georgians, especially if they are at a poker table with me.

Bruno2
Bruno2

@Classof98 I'll match you any day on the table, Classof98.  ; > }

BahiaDeTampa
BahiaDeTampa

If you want to hemp Georgia farmers and manufacturing. legalize hemp. 

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

I suspect there's a religious element, more so than any great concern for the well-being of the "1 percent", that's at the root of KW's objection to casino gambling.

WWYT?
WWYT?

Sounds like another plan from the "man" to keep the people down.

jhgm63
jhgm63

Isn't this a case of excessive regulation interfering with business?

Astropig
Astropig

Couldn't agree more with Kyle.Casino gambling is the ultimate regressive tax scheme.I am ashamed to call myself a Republican if this is passed into law.Real jobs that provide real prosperity are the ones where raw materials come in one door,skilled or semi-skilled workers add value through honest work, and finished,higher -value goods are shipped out the back dock to people that will pay good money for them (ideally in other countries).Those kinds of jobs provide real wealth to build roads,good schools and strong communities.


Casino jobs benefit a very few,corrupt every government they touch and prey upon players and employees alike for the promise of fool's gold.They exploit both the gambling addicts and local governments never ending quest of "something for nothing".

TGT88
TGT88

Good column. Spot on.

breckenridge
breckenridge

For casino owners the slot machines are fixed income.  The pay out at a fixed rate, a rate that is regulated by state gaming commissions.  Margins tend to be in the 12% range; slot machines pay back 88 cents on the dollar.  The lower minimum bet is on a machine, the less it pays out, and vice versa.  So a nickle machine may pay back about 80 cents on the dollar, which a $5 machine will pay back 94 cents on the dollar.


People with limited incomes tend to play the lower minimums, ergo their chances of winning are less than someone with the money to go for $5 per spin.  In my opinion slots are boring beyond belief and should not be played at all, under any circumstances.

Caius
Caius

So the role of government is to protect people from themselves?


OldEngineer
OldEngineer

@Caius Well it depends on whether the party in power agrees that whatever it is is a "threat" to - well, their beliefs.

TGT88
TGT88

@Caius So why all those laws against prostitution?

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Caius If that were the case we would have a law that would ban gun ownership for mentally imbalanced people!

jezel-dog / Coach - me
jezel-dog / Coach - me

@Caius role of gov. is to do for us.... what we as individuals cannot do for ourselves.


And to protect us from the self righteous....