Kansas City is not the only market considering expanded gambling and it’s certainly not the only one to consider hitting the breaks when looking at the economic data of new casinos’ entrance into the market. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission unanimously decided to hold off taking applications for new gambling licenses. This decision was reported by the Des Moines Register and was based on the idea that an in-depth economic impact study should be commissioned before new expansion should take place.
This is a positive first step for those looking to expand gambling as the National Gambling Impact Study’s final report recommended a moratorium on all gambling until such economic impact studies were conducted and analyzed. However, the studies to be conducted in Iowa will fall short of the mark for determining true economic impact:
The proposed study will examine the impact that granting additional casino licenses would have upon existing casinos and consider whether there are “underserved” pockets within Iowa’s gambling market, [Commission Chairwoman Kate Cutler of Council Bluffs ] said.
The research won’t examine the social ills caused by gambling addiction in Iowa, although it will explore potential negative impacts of gambling upon other Iowa retail businesses, such as Main Street restaurants in communities with casinos, she said.
How can you determine the economic impact of a casino if you refuse to look at both sides of the coin? True economic impact is not just measured in benefits from tax revenues but also in the cost to states. It is a well-documented fact that for each dollar a state collects in benefits from the casino, three dollars are spent cleaning up the social ills.
Studies like this are important when determining if a new casino will simply displace funds from other casinos, or other business, but they do nothing to determine the true impact the people of a state must deal with. This is the kind of junk science that is perpetual pushed by the casino industry and it must be rejected. It’s time to refocus the conversation.