Ga. should learn from others’ mistakes and pass up casinos

House Bill 158 and Senate Bill 79 are the latest attempts by the gambling industry to invade our great state. This year’s attempt doesn’t even contain the word “casino.” It’s as if legislators, the governor and the voters of Georgia will deem the bill less harmful if they are voting for “destination resorts” as opposed to “casinos.” Here’s why I am opposed to these 28-page bills:

Economic impact: An Emory Law School study shows that each slot machine or electronic gambling machine costs the state economy one job per year every year. Casinos do bring in new jobs, but more jobs are lost than gained. Additionally, non-gambling businesses shun areas with gambling facilities, according to a University of New Orleans study of their own city. Furthermore, spending on necessities of life is redirected into gambling machines. One study showed that people around gambling facilities spent 10 percent less on food; 25 percent less on clothing; and 37 percent had raided their bank accounts in order to gamble. The socioeconomic costs of legalized gambling are well-established at well-over $3 in costs for every $1 in new government revenue. Casinos cannibalize the local economy and hurt all businesses, especially locally owned small businesses.

Crony capitalism: Proponents describe the “destination resorts” as free-market, but in fact they are the picture of crony capitalism. HB 158 and SB 79 allow for only two “destination resorts,” which eliminates competition. They will be highly regulated (larger government) and will eventually be subsidized by the state (providing special tax breaks for special interests). Gambling interests have hired dozens of lobbyists to attempt to persuade elected officials to their way of thinking. I believe in smaller, more-efficient government. These bills would make our state government even bigger with the creation of The Georgia Gaming Commission.

Increased crime: While crime directly around casinos may actually decrease due to the increased number of security personnel casinos employ, research from Emory University shows that crime rates increase 10 percent every year in the communities around a casino.?

Bankruptcies increase: Areas within 30 miles of casinos typically see personal and business bankruptcy rates rise 28 to 42 percent, on average. When someone gambles away their savings, it leaves them vulnerable when the next crisis hits. When bankruptcy occurs, we all pay, either by not getting paid for goods or services, or through higher prices.

Intentional addiction: MIT Professor Natasha Schull reported in her 2012 book “Addiction By Design,” that people who follow responsible gambling guidelines made up 75 percent of the players, but contribute only four percent of gambling profits. That means 25 percent of gamblers provide 96 percent of the profits! The addicts are often those who can least afford it.

Don’t fall for the two big deceptions you will hear about this issue!

The first is that this is the only way to fix the ailing HOPE Scholarship fund. Not so. If anything, casinos will cannibalize the lottery.

Additionally, the Georgia Lottery Corp. (GLC) paid less than 25 percent of revenue to education last year. This percentage has steadily decreased from 35.1 percent in 1995. The bill which created the lottery requires the GLC to pay “as nearly as is practical” at least 35 percent of revenues to education. Had the GLC contributed 35 percent to education, it would have resulted in an additional more than $400 million for education last year alone. This is well above any of the rosy projections that gambling enthusiasts say their bills will give to education.

These bills say that there is a 20 percent tax on gross receipts. This money is then used to pay the Georgia Gaming Commission. Only funds above $5 million will be transferred to the Georgia Lottery Corp. for HOPE and other programs. How do we know that the GLC will distribute these funds accordingly, since they haven’t done so with lottery proceeds?

Many politicians will cop-out and say the people should decide through a statewide referendum. Normally, this is not a bad argument. However, the gambling industry will spend millions of dollars to convince Georgians that legalized gambling will usher in an economic utopia. The other side has little, if any, money to spend on advertising.

A Quinnipiac poll was released that showed 62 percent of New Jersey residents say gambling has been bad for their state. Shouldn’t we learn from the mistakes of others instead of repeating them?

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State Rep. Wes Cantrell, R-Woodstock, represents portions of Cherokee, Forsyth, and Fulton counties.

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