Researches of Gambling Effects by NORC
The Commission also heard from a number of local officials in jurisdictions where casinos are located. Among those who informed the commissioners with their testimony were Elgin, Illinois, Mayor Kevin Kelly; Mayor Scott King from Gary, Indiana; Mayor James Whelan from Atlantic City; as well as mayors from Bettendorf, Iowa, and Alton, Illinois. The Commission also heard from Mayors A. J. Holloway, Bobby Williams, Bob Short, and Eddy Favre of Biloxi, Tunica, Gulfport, and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, respectively. Without exception these elected officials expressed support for gambling and recited instances of increased revenues for their cities. They also discussed community improvements made possible since the advent of gambling in their communities and reviewed the general betterment of life for the citizenry in their cities and towns.
In the community analysis conducted by NORC, other communities reported growth in the hotel industry, more money for local government, and increased construction. In two of the ten communities studied, property values were reported to have improved. Three communities reported an increase in retail establishments; two reported a decline. The NORC 100 community database analysis of casino proximity reported that there is a statistically significant casino effect on per capita casino spending; on 4 of 5 employment measures and on 7 of 16 income earnings measures. This analysis also found that there is a marked decrease in the percentage of the labor force that is unemployed; a slight increase in construction earnings; an increase in actual per capita construction earnings; and a substantial percentage increase in earnings in hotel and lodgings and recreation and amusements industries. 16
While pointing out that legalized gambling has social and economic costs, the NRC notes that “the recent institutionalization of gambling appears to have benefited economically depressed communities in which it is offered.” 17
More specifically, “the benefits are borne out in reports, for example, of increased employment and income, increased tax revenues, enhanced tourism and recreational opportunities, and rising property values.” 18
But there were other factors brought to the attention of the Commission. In Atlantic City and elsewhere, small business owners testified to the loss of their businesses when casinos came to town. 19 As evidence of this impact, few businesses can be found more than a few blocks from the Atlantic City boardwalk. Many of the “local” businesses remaining are pawnshops, cash-for-gold stores and discount outlets. One witness noted that, “in 1978 [the year the first casino opened], there were 311 taverns and restaurants in Atlantic City. Nineteen years later, only 66 remained, despite the promise that gaming would be good for the city’s own.” 20
Other citizens testified to the lack of job security they had encountered in tribal casinos, the absence of federal and state anti-discrimination laws, and the lack of workers’ compensation benefits.
NORC found “no change in overall per capita income” after the introduction of casinos, “as the increases [in certain industries] are offset by reductions in welfare and transfer payments as well as a drop-off in income from restaurants and bars.” 21
In its survey of leaders in 10 casino communities, NORC found mixed perceptions about the economic impact of casinos. Respondents in 5 of the 10 communities cited new employment opportunities as a “very positive advantage.” However, “Respondents in the other four communities indicated that unemployment remained a problem, despite former hopes to the contrary.” Unemployment among Indian tribes remains extremely high. Respondents in six of the communities complained that the casinos provided low-paying and/ or part-time jobs with no benefits.
16 National Opinion Research Council (April 1, 1999), pp. 70, 76- 77. 17 NRC, (April 1, 1999), p. Exec-1. 18 Ibid., p. 5-1. 19 See, for instance, testimony of Joseph Faldetta to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, Atlantic City, N. J., (January 22, 1998). 20 Ibid. 21 NORC, p. 70.