Tallahassee Democrat column: Nuance or nuisance, casino issues are back before the courtJune 12, 2016
Blog post: Not your grandma’s slot machinesJune 30, 2016
Did you ever see a magician pull a rabbit out of his hat, seemingly producing it out of thin air?
That’s pretty much how the gambling hucksters put on their show in front of audiences comprised of state legislators and local leaders. Only instead of top hats, they break out the graphs and charts showing endless piles of money magically materializing. Money for jobs, money for economic development, money for schools, money for anything your heart could desire.
Just let them build or expand their casinos, and voilà.
It’s nothing more than hocus-pocus accounting.
In reality, the money has to come from somewhere. In Florida, it comes from restaurants, theaters, nightclubs or other local businesses. Dollars that would have been spent at them are instead diverted to slot machines and card tables.
This is because most all the dollars come from Florida residents. Their money simply is diverted from elsewhere to slot machines and card games. New jobs at casinos come at the expense of existing jobs elsewhere. New tax revenues from casinos are balanced by the loss of tax revenues at other businesses.
The Spectrum Gaming Group exposed the sleight of hand in its $400,000 report on gambling authorized by the Florida Legislature.
To quote: “If households did not spend on gambling-related expenses, this spending would not simply disappear from the economy. Rather, we assume these consumers would have spent those dollars on other goods and services. In this analysis, we assume 95 percent of the GGR (Gross Gaming Revenue – the money wagered minus the payouts to winners) to the pari-mutuel casinos was from Florida residents…” (Part 1A, page 249)
Economists at the Office of Economic and Demographic Research agree. In a presentation to state lawmakers last year, entitled, Gaming: Revenue Overview, they surmised the following on a PowerPoint slide:
“The money for gambling expenditures comes from somewhere; it is not created:
o Recreational budget from discretionary income that could be spent on other items.
o Savings or other investments.
o For problem gamblers, dollars essential to subsistence.”
There is nothing magical about gambling. Casino dollars do not appear out of thin air. This is a predatory industry that feeds off local economies.
What the casino hucksters have up their sleeves is neither good for Florida, its communities or its residents.