Casinos bring crime, poverty to communities
Published: Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 14:03
Far from the Las Vegas-style grandiosity and allure, and even further from the pockets of the so-called high rollers and well-to-do, lies San Pablo's Lytton Casino, one of the city's most thriving enterprises.
No matter the hour of day, a steady flow of foot and car traffic can be seen swarming the 1,100 machine casino, sometimes filling the expansive lot to maximum capacity, and bringing a highly disproportionate mixture of regulars and occasional gamblers.
Over time, the Lytton Casino has become the veritable hub of the small city, allowing convenient 24/7 access to Class II gaming, or slots deemed games of chance rather than gambling.
But for all the success the casino experiences, someone will always be losing money.
Casinos would like you to think that the revenues and jobs they provide do more than offset the human damage they create, that they are actually a positive community force.
And on the surface, it seems like the perfect cure; tax revenue flowing into the city increases, local unemployment drops and police patrol shoots up immediately after casinos open their doors.
But according to a study released in June 2006 titled "Casinos, Crime and Community Cost," which studied 3,165 counties in the United States from 1977 to 1996, these benefits are statistically short-lived.
University of Georgia economist David B. Mustard found that just a year after opening, crime begins to increase at an accelerated rate, far surpassing what it would have been sans casino.
On the average, five years following the opening of a casino, robbery in the community goes up 136 percent, aggravated assault is up 91 percent, auto theft is up 78 percent, burglary is up 50 percent, larceny is up 38 percent, rape is up 21 percent and murder is up 12 percent, compared with surrounding communities.
After the initial deluge of resources fade, communities don't tend to continue adding police, allowing increased crime to eventually exhaust police resources.
Not only are police agencies overwhelmed, studies have shown that casinos increase the need for child welfare, mental health, emergency medical services and pathological and problem gambling programs in the surrounding community.
I think most of us have heard at least a few devastating tales come out casinos.
I know a man who once banned himself from Casino San Pablo, telling security to take whatever measures they found necessary to keep him away.
It didn't work. And unfortunately for him, while violating his own ban, his big win finally came and he was forced to pay off a meth addict $4,000 to get past security.
I know another man who would walk every dime he earned from El Sobrante down into San Pablo, and return without a penny.
This desperation is not rare, and the anecdotes continue to multiply.
Horror stories of robberies outside of the Lytton Casino or of being followed home and robbed at gunpoint should not come as a surprise.
And even more, Mustard's study found that surrounding non-casino counties show no significant increases in crime, proving that casinos breed crime locally rather than displace it from other areas.
Though I have no real memory of San Pablo without the Lytton Casino, I can't help but feel that my community has been bamboozled and scammed.
When a majority of the people who frequent the casino are only able to do so because of proximity, it becomes clear that the Lytton Casino, however unintentionally, is preying upon the destitution of its community.
It has become a cesspool of secondhand smoke, violent crime, stimulants, alcohol, gambling and other bodily abuse, and it is a festering sore in the socio-economic conditions of this region.
Our community does not deserve this degeneration.