Economic Impact of Gambling on The US Citizens

When the public considers “gambling,” they tend to think principally of casino style settings. In fact, there are 10 states with commercial casinos, sixteen states with tribal casinos (23 states have either commercial or tribal casinos or both.) Some of these are mega-resorts that include hotels, retail, dining and entertainment. For the most part, companies involved in this form of gambling are publicly traded and highly regulated. As a result, this is the one area of the industry where some data and analyses of social and economic factors exists. 13

But, the reality is that the most prevalent forms of gambling are the ones found in most neighborhoods: lotteries and other forms of “convenience” gambling. 14 And in the past few years, Internet gambling sites enabled slot machine and video poker style gambling to come right into our homes. In many ways, these forms of gambling are far more troublesome than any other, as the benefits are negligible, the level of regulation minimal and the likelihood of abuse much greater. Of greater concern to parents, convenience and Internet gambling are far more accessible to children and, unlike casino and pari-mutuel gambling, far more difficult to avoid. Further, the types of games typically offered in convenience gambling facilities or over the Internet tend to be the fastest-paced and, therefore, most addictive forms of gambling. 15

While the Commission has some idea of the impact of gambling on our citizens, we must acknowledge that the state of research is extremely incomplete and that much more work should be done in the future. However, even without a complete range of measurements, the Commission can begin the process of determining the net impact of gambling. To this end, the Commission was able to conduct important analyses of gambling’s economic and social costs and benefits, based not only on the personal experiences of individuals and communities, but also on quantitative and qualitative factors. This represents only a beginning of the process┬żbut it is a beginning. The Commission urges policymakers at all levels of government to accept our challenge to evaluate and to critically test both the economic and social costs and benefits associated with the introduction of, or continuation of, or restriction of gambling activities within their communities.

Legalized gambling has had certain positive economic effects in some of the communities in which it has been introduced. Hundreds of employees in several cities described the new and better jobs they had obtained with the advent of casinos. Some described relocating from other states to the sites of new casinos; others spoke of leaving minimum-wage jobs in which they had no benefits, to accept unionized jobs at the casinos at higher compensation and with significant employment opportunities. Some described the homes and cars they had been able to purchase, and the health and retirement benefits they had obtained by going to work for the casinos. In other locations, tribal members testified that the advent of casinos on tribal lands had provided jobs where none had existed before and had improved hospital and clinic facilities and schools for the benefit of their children. They spoke with evident pride about the economic impact opportunities which legalized gambling had made available to them, providing them with economic resources, both personal and tribal, which they had been unable to obtain before the advent of legalized gambling on their tribal lands. Further, several tribal representatives testified that gambling revenues are providing tribes with enough resources to make investments in other industries and enterprises.

13 The pari-mutuel industry has also received a significant amount of scrutiny and likewise was open and supportive of our study. 14 “Convenience gambling” have been used to describe legal, stand-alone slot machines, video poker, video keno, and other electronic gambling devices (EGD’s). 15 For more information, see chapter on “Pathological and Problem Gambling.”