"There is no question, in sites where gambling is introduced, there is an increase in crime."

-- Former Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran

Gambling expansion does not simply recapture Massachusetts gamblers who out of state to gamble. It creates more gamblers locally.

According to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission Report, the presence of a gambling facility within 50 miles roughly doubles the prevalence of problem an pathological gamblers.

A study conducted by Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions revealed that individuals who live within 10 miles of a casino or in a disadvantaged neighborhood are more likely to experience problem gambling.

What a 50 mile radius around each Massachusetts casino proposals looks like:

Map of impact of gambling addiction due to current and existing casino proposals

Casino-Free Milford

"Casino-Free Milford worked tirelessly to protect not only Milford but also our neighbors in surrounding towns because we understood that the impacts of a casino reach far beyond the borders of its host community. We therefore believe that all citizens in Massachusetts—not just the voters within a potential host community—should have the right to vote on whether or not to allow the casino gambling industry to operate in our state."

No Casino West Springfield

"The arrival of the gambling industry in Massachusetts has revealed a sordid affair of corruption, special interests, payoffs and lawsuits. The very process itself has sought inroads by pitting towns against towns and neighbors against neighbors. It is time for the people of Massachusetts to come together, to recognize a failed policy – and to fix it," said Al Cabot of No Casino West Springfield. "The members of No Casino West Springfield are proud to be joining together under one banner with organizations and leaders from across the state to work to educate, to inform, and to fight against this misguided law. We are proud to be part of a united, statewide effort to repeal the casino deal."


Back in 2007 when Governor Patrick announced his support of expanded gambling, he described his vision as one of 'destination casinos' placed thoughtfully across the state, where they would not only re-capture gambling dollars going to Rhode Island and Connecticut, but also encourage out-of-state gamblers to cross into Massachusetts to lose their money while enjoying unique Bay State amenities.

Welcome to 2014. Pennsylvania has since opened 12 casinos. Maryland opened six. New casinos opened up in New York and Maine. New York also legalized commercial casinos and new proposals are on the table there. Meanwhile, across the country casinos are closing and going bankrupt. Gambling revenues are down almost everywhere. In New Jersey and Delaware casinos are receiving taxpayer bailouts. Mississippi is considering tax breaks for its remaining casinos. A Rhode Island slot parlor recently added table games, becoming a full-fledged casino in order to compete in the region. And this year, Connecticuts Foxwoods casino required a series of layoffs.

Thanks to market over-saturation of gambling venues across the Eastern United States, 'destination casinos' have become 'convenience casinos' drawing customers from the local region. And while this may 'keep Massachusetts gambling dollars in the state' it also creates more gamblers locally, mostly low-rollers spending their money at a nearby casino, where those dollars flow predominately to billionaire casino investors and state coffers, and not into the local economy.

The lifeblood of Parx casino in Bucks is low-roller locals

By Monica Yant Kinney
Philadelphia Inquirer
Originally Published: Sunday, March 07, 2010

Las Vegas uses volcanoes, Emeril Lagasse, and spa treatments to make losing seem fun. Philadelphia's casino "experience" is shaping up to be neither entertaining nor exotic, defined instead by hot dogs, cigarettes, and convenience.

For proof, head to Bensalem, where Parx - formerly called PhiladelphiaPark Racetrack - made $400 million last year. Impressive for a not-spot plopped among strip malls.

Inside the smoke-filled slots box, much of what casino bosses took for granted has changed. Gone are the days of wooing "whales" and dissing grannies in fanny packs. Parx president Dave Jonas says his revenue comes almost exclusively from local low rollers.

"We underestimated significantly how many trips our customers were going to make," Jonas said at last month's Pennsylvania Gaming Congress in Valley Forge.

"When I was in Atlantic City, to have 12 to 15 trips out of customers, they were VIPs," Jonas said. At Parx, "it's not uncommon for us to have 150 to 200 trips."

Moderator Michael Pollock, a well-regarded casino analyst, paused to digest the statistic.

"You said 150 to 200 times a year," he repeated. "That's three to four times a week, essentially."

"Yes," Jonas confirmed, most of his players fit that profile. In fact, because Parx players tend to live within 20 miles of Street Road, many go even more frequently.

"We have customers," Jonas boasted, "who give us $25, $30 five times a week."

A new way of life

Besides work and the gym, there's no place I go three to five times a week. And, beyond Target and Wegmans, nowhere I drop as much cash.

Jonas should be proud of Parx's haul. But if frequency can portend problem gambling, should he - and we - worry about thousands of people who've made playing a way of daily life? It didn't take much to lure them, beyond proximity, free valet parking, and $50 comps. "If you live 15 minutes away, you really don't need a room," Jonas told the casino group. His customers "come in, grab a hot dog or maybe a chicken sandwich," gamble three hours, "then go home and sleep in their own bed."

This I had to see to believe. For expert observation, I took C.P. Mirarchi and Kevin Gregan on a field trip last week to Parx.

Mirarchi is a lawyer-turned-counselor ( who treats fellow gambling addicts through Genesis Counseling Centers, based in Collingswood. Gregan is Mirarchi's boss, a veteran clinician who diagnosed his own addictive potential after "losing the baby's diaper money" in a poker game.

Neither man had been in a casino in years. Both did double takes at the full house we found on a Wednesday at 11 a.m.

Chasing the dream

"You can see that people who may not be doing anything are out doing something that breathes life into them," Gregan noted. "But at the same time, they're watching their money disappear. How many of these people can truly afford to be participating in this activity?"

If most Parx players go three times a week, what to make of the guy who tells me he's there twice a day? Regularity won't automatically breed depravity, but surely everyone knows the house always wins.

"Everybody in there is one pull away from a different lifestyle, one pull away from the dream," Mirarchi said from experience. "The hardest thing for any addict to do is give up that dream."

We tried to get lunch, but Parx's steak house serves only dinner, and the Foodies counter steps away from the casino floor didn't entice.

"This," Mirarchi marveled, "is the McDonald's of gambling." Fast food offers familiarity close to home. So does Parx.

Even better for that twice-a-day player I met? The casino never closes. I'll share his story Wednesday. He's having the time of his life.

Ring of Fire

One woman's eye-opening encounter with the long reach of a casino's negative effects. Cross posted from the Blue Mass Group Forum, September 2011

Somehow, or maybe not, we are related. Distantly, if so. I don’t know her name. We just seem to show up at all the same wakes.

This time she’s got a baby with her. He’s very well behaved, with a full head of hair and a sweet smile.

"He’s got your eyes," I tell her.

"No." She replies a little bit too firmly, "He’s got his father's eyes."

I look around for the boy’s father but he must be in the other room with the throng of friends and relatives. We chat some more about mostly nothing, just passing the time until we can leave. And that’s when she mentions that she’s a single mom.

Something connects, and I look closer at the little boy.

Ten or so minutes go by, and my sister and mother and I have managed to make it across the room to a quiet corner, and that’s when I whisper to my mother what I’ve wanted to ask, “Is she the one? The one you told me about with the husband who…” She nods before I can finish the sentence.

It was 2007, and my mother and I were enjoying a visit out on the screen porch when talk got around, as it always did that summer, as to the possibility of a casino in Middleboro. “Those places are no good,” my mother said. And then she told me a story.

It was the story of someone she knew – a grand-niece or a daughter of a friend, something like that – someone who wanted very much to have a baby. She and her husband had tried for years to get pregnant, finally, but successfully attempting IVF. The procedure had been expensive. They got behind financially. Way behind. The woman, now pregnant, gave her husband the cash to pay some bills one morning. But while she was at work, he drove to a Rhode Island casino, thinking that maybe he could take that bill money and turn it into more bill money – and in the process lost it all. When he returned home, he realized he couldn’t pay the bills – or face his wife – and took his own life. He was laid to rest in a Middleboro cemetery. His baby boy was born several months later.

"Those places are no good," my mother repeated.

It had been a year since I’d heard that story. Sometimes I wondered if it were even real. Still, I’d often think about that little boy whose face I’d never seen, whose name I didn’t know.

If casino gambling comes to Massachusetts, none of us will see the face or know the name of every child left without a parent, or neglected by one, or abused by one.

But they’ll be there. The ones that get left off the balance sheet. The collateral damage. The folks who form what we have politely and ambiguously come to call '‘social costs'.

Except that now they’ll live in other towns in Massachusetts, places further north and east and west of Middleboro where, as of now, it takes too long for most people to drive to a casino to lose the bill money in less than a day.

I’m reminded of the map, the one with a circle around each of the three proposed Massachusetts casinos. Every circle represents a radius of 50 miles, and all together they encompass 319 cities and towns. All three of them overlap. The circles illustrate the National Gambling Impact Study Commission’s suggestion that the number of problem and addicted gamblers doubles within 50 miles of a new casino. A ring of fire.

"I fell in to a burning ring of fire. I went down,down,down, and the flames went higher."

I remember a man, when the map was first published, ridiculing it loudly to everyone who’d listen, pointing out that Middleboro is less than 50 miles from any Rhode Island casino, and insisting that they’d had no impact here.

Not for him.

His son still has a dad to teach him how to tie his shoes, and ride a bike, and throw a baseball.

"It’s all about choice," they like to say. "It's my choice, if I want to gamble my money or not."

But where’s that baby’s choice? I think his choice would be to grow up with a dad.

I think his choice would be to grow up in a world that didn’t make it so easy for his Dad to lose hope. That didn’t use people’s weaknesses to balance budget shortfalls. But he doesn’t get a vote.

How many times have I heard it, "we already have gambling addiction here…"?

I wonder if they said that when they built the first casino outside of Las Vegas. “We already have the problems, we might as well get the revenue.” That’s what they probably said.

And then someone looked over at that casino and said the same thing. And so another casino got built. And now, when people say that there’s already gambling addiction where they live, it’s because of that last casino that went up. The one not terribly far to drive to.

Because building a new casino never just ‘recaptures’ problem gamblers. It creates them.

With every new casino we light another another ring of fire.

In Iowa, before they built casinos, 1.7% of the population were problem gamblers. Three and a half years later, that figure had more than tripled to 5.4%. In New York, the percentage of people who reported having had a gambling problem increased from 4.2% to 7.3% in the first decade of gambling expansion. In Gulfport, Mississippi, suicides increased by 213 percent in the first two years after casinos were built, while in nearby Biloxi, suicide attempts jumped by 1,000 percent in the first year alone.

People will tell you it’s all about jobs, that with three casinos and a slot parlor there’s the potential to create anywhere from 8,000 to 16,000 jobs. But how does that truly compare with creating an additional 300,000 people in Massachusetts who’ll live along a state-sponsored spectrum that ranges from a broken home on one end to a funeral on the other?

In 2010 a state senator from Cape Cod stood during the casino debate and told the story about how, more than once, his father had abandoned him and his siblings on a local beach while he went to the track. This all probably happened more than forty years ago, but the memory of watching the sun go down and wondering how he was going to get home and what he was going to eat still caused the the senator’s voice to crack as he fought back tears. Like ripples on water, a single problem gambler can create a wake of financial hardship and emotional devastation that can last for decades, if not forever.

Had there been no casino in Rhode Island, that baby’s father might have driven to a Connecticut casino to find a reason to end his life. But he might not have. It’s a long round trip to take while your wife’s at work. But if there were no New England casinos, he’d be alive right now.

He wouldn’t be watching casino commercials every day on TV or listening to them on the radio. Commercials that make casinos seem as innocuous as Disneyland, and as brimming with possibilities as a golden ticket to Wonka World. He wouldn’t have had such an easy excuse to lose the bill money and to feel like he’d failed his family. He’d be here showing off his beautiful baby boy to all the relatives.

"All that money’s just going across the border," they tell us.

I look across the room at the baby and I think, you know what? Let it go…

My Aunt Ginny comes over to say hello, and says she can’t believe it’s really me. I only recognize her from old photographs but, according to family lore, she was the one who took care of me when I was very young and my mother had to work.

Aunt Ginny, whose gravity-defying hair would make any iconic country western singer proud, left Massachusetts for Oklahoma back in the 70's. I have no memory of her, but love her instantly. She is funny and cheerful and I’m grateful to have her sitting with us, taking our minds off the wake and the baby and casinos.

While we’re talking, a woman with a breathing tube in her throat stops by and says hello to my mother, who introduces us. She registers a flash of recognition, and an eyebrow is arched.

"So," she says, "You’re the daughter who’s against the casino."

She says this as if she actually means, "So, you’re the daughter who recently escaped from a mental institution."

Somehow, even at a wake, these people manage to find me.

Aunt Ginny laughs. “What’s the matter with casinos?” she asks, "I love the casino! I’ve got one right down the end of my street. I’ve won big a few times there, too."

My mother leans in and whispers in my ear, "Ask her how much she’s lost…"

But there’s no need. Aunt Ginny is obviously a woman of modest means.

I get up to leave. I have a board meeting to attend in Lakeville that evening. Probably another shouting match. I’m tired, I’d rather go home, or out to a restaurant with my mother and sister and Aunt Ginny.

Instead we gather in the hall for hugs and goodbyes, and agree that wouldn’t it be nicer to get together somewhere besides funerals and wakes.

Within the year my Aunt Ginny will be dead, unable to afford health insurance, and living right down the street from a casino.

But that evening her laughter was still with me as I lingered on the side street, decompressing in the quiet sanctuary of my car, safe for now. I allow the wake and the family and the lady with the breathing tube to wash away. All that’s left is the little boy, who’s real now. A little boy with a sweet smile, a full head of hair and his father’s eyes.

If only his father’s eyes could see them.

Economist David B. Mustard and Earl L. Grinols of Baylor University analyzed crime data collected from all 3,165 U.S. counties in the United States from 1977 to 1996 and looked at local crime rates before and after casinos opened.

What they discovered was that that crime rates didn't increase when a casino first opened - but did start to rise slowly during the first year of operation, then more quickly until it was greater than before the casino was built.

And, by the fifth year of operation,

  • robberies were up 136%
  • aggravated assaults 91%
  • auto theft 78%
  • burglary 50%
  • larceny 38%
  • rape 21%

Controlling for other factors

  • 8.6% of property crimes and
  • 12.6% of violent crimes
Were attributed to casinos.

Along with the costs of increased crime, there will be additional costs associated with increases in poverty, recidivism, bankruptcy, fraud, suicides, child neglect, child abuse, job inefficiency, youth gambling and addictions of all kinds. In one independent study, costs outweighed benefits by 3 to 1. (Grinols-2004) No independent cost-benefit analysis has been presented by proponents.

Also see:

The National Gambling Impact Study Commission (NGISC-1999) estimated about 1 out of 3 active gamblers have some level of mild, moderate to severe gambling problem. The cost of problem gamblers to society has been estimated to be from $10,000 to $50,000 a year. The number of problem gamblers increases significantly within a 50 mile radius of a new casino.

The New Hampshire Gaming Study Commission - an independent study - (page 83) found that even one Salem or Hudson casino would cause an additional 1,200 serious crimes each year against innocent victims. Shopping malls and parks do not cause gambling addiction and related crimes. The New Hampsire Association of Chiefs of Police and every New Hampshire Attorney General for the past 35 years have opposed legalized casinos because they increase serious crime.

The Availability of Gambling Results in More Gambling Addiction

The number of Gamblers Anonymous chapters in the United States has nearly doubled in the last eight years as gambling has expanded across the country

Georgia now has more than 1,200 chapters meeting regularly across the country.

Gambling surveys in the state of Iowa showed a marked increase in the number of problem and pathological gamblers after the introduction of casinos. In 1989, only 1.7 percent of Iowa adults showed indications of having a serious gambling problem; by 1995, the percentage had more than tripled to 5.4 percent.

Dr. Rob Hunter, founder and director of the Charter Hospital Gambling Treatment Center in Las Vegas and a nationally recognized expert on gambling addiction, estimates that 15 percent of casino workers have a compulsive gambling problem.

In New York, the percentage of individuals who report having had a gambling problem increased from 4.2 percent in 1986 to 7.3 percent a decade later, as gambling opportunities greatly expanded.

In Oregon, the number of Gamblers Anonymous chapters increased from three to more than 30 within five years of the introduction of video poker machines. Gambling addiction experts contend video poker is among the most addictive forms of gambling.

Two gambling behavior surveys conducted in Minnesota showed a substantial increase in the number of compulsive gamblers coincidental with the expansion of gambling in that state. The lottery was introduced in Minnesota in 1990, while casino gambling was just gaining a toehold that year. By 1994, however, there were 17 casinos in operation in Minnesota with estimated gross annual sales of between $3 billion to $4 billion. The percentage of Minnesota adults who demonstrated a serious gambling problem in the past year climbed from 2.5 percent of the population in 1990 to 4.4 percent in 1994.

Some Gambling-Related Crime Statistics

An estimated 40 percent of white-collar crime is committed by gambling addicts. Research suggests that $1.3 billion per year in insurance fraud alone is related to gambling.

57 percent of 400 surveyed Gamblers Anonymous members admitted to stealing in order to maintain their gambling habits. "Collectively, they stole $30 million, for an average of $135,000 per individual."

University of Illinois professor, John Kindt, reported that 1.5 million people or .5 percent of the U.S. population became new criminals from 1994 to 1997 as a direct correlation to states' government-sponsored legalized gambling. The cost for this rise in crime ranged from $12 billion to $15 billion.

According to a study by Earl Grinols, a city can expect its crime rate to increase by about 8 percent after four or five years of introducing casinos.

There are many more problem gamblers arrested (30%) compared to arrests among non-gamblers (7%). About 40% of the incarcerated (and formerly incarcerated) are estimated to have gambling problems.

The annual number of police calls jumped over 400% within 5 years after the opening of the Foxwoods Resort Casino. After 4 years, Atlantic City's major crimes tripled.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast experienced a 43 percent increase in crime in the four years after casinos arrived. Harrison County, where most of the Gulf Coast casinos are located, witnessed a 58 percent increase in total crimes between 1993 and 1996.

The number of court cases filed in Tunica County, Mississippi, went from 689 in 1991, the year before casinos began operating there, to 11,100 in 1996.

Nevada ranked first in crime rates among the fifty states in both 1995 and 1996, based on an analysis of FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics. Further, the violent crime rate in Nevada increased by close to 40 percent from 1991 to 1996, a period in which the national violent crime rate dropped by approximately 10 percent.

The San Jose, California, police department reported significant increases in crime in the vicinity of a new cardroom in the year after its opening. Narcotics offenses increased by 200 percent, property crimes by 83 percent, petty thefts by 56 percent, auto thefts by 21 percent, and traffic accidents by 55 percent in a single year.

The annual number of felony cases filed in Lawrence County, South Dakota, has increased by approximately 69 percent since the introduction of casinos to Deadwood.

Gambling and Suicide

For millions of Americans, gambling addiction has become a pathway to pain and misery; for some it leads to death. Gambling-related suicides have become an increasingly common phenomenon, as legalized gambling has spread across America. The extent of this phenomenon remains largely unrecognized, however, due to a variety of reasons, ranging from a desire by surviving family members to protect privacy to attempts by suicide victims to make their deaths appear accidental for insurance purposes. Even so, the evidence beginning to come forth paints a grim picture of the depth of despondency which often accompanies a gambling addiction.

In a 1997 study, a University of California-San Diego sociologist found that "visitors to and residents of gaming communities experience significantly elevated suicide levels." According to Dr. David Phillips, Las Vegas "displays the highest levels of suicide in the nation, both for residents of Las Vegas and for visitors to that setting." In Atlantic City, N.J., Phillips found that "abnormally high suicide levels for visitors and residents appeared only after gambling casinos were opened."

In 1999, more than 429 Nevada residents committed suicide according to the Donrey Washington Bureau. Nevada has consistently held the highest suicide rate for more than 10 years.

February 2003 news reports said support for a proposed downtown casino expansion in Alberta, Canada is in trouble after statistics revealed an alarming link between gambling and suicides. Medical examiners suspect that at least one out of every 10 suicides is gambling-related.

In Gulfport, Mississippi, suicides increased by 213 percent (from 24 to 75) in the first two years after casinos arrived. In neighboring Biloxi, suicide attempts jumped by 1,000 percent (from 6 to 66) in the first year alone.

A survey of nearly 200 Gamblers Anonymous members in Illinois found that 66 percent had contemplated suicide, 79 percent had wanted to die, 45 percent had a definite plan to kill themselves, and 16 percent had actually attempted suicide.

The National Council on Problem Gambling, citing various studies, reports that one in five pathological gamblers attempts suicide - a rate higher than for any other addictive disorder.

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