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Florida Should Not Gamble Its Future
by Sheriff Grady Judd
October 29, 2013
For The Lakeland Ledger
Florida is a family-friendly destination for visitors from all over the world. But some special interests inside and outside Florida want to change that. They want to expand casino gambling under the guise improving Florida’s economy.
There is a big problem with that: Expanded casino gambling will produce very few winners, but many, many losers.
Remember Jack Webb’s “Joe Friday” character on the old “Dragnet” TV show? He used the phrase “all we want are the facts” during his police investigations. One of the most important facts about the expansion of legalized gambling is that it will create more crime in communities all across Florida.
The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling reports that 35 percent of callers to its toll-free, anonymous problem-gambling help line say they committed an illegal act to support their habit. Formal studies wave red flags about crime and casinos.
One study that examined 167 counties where casinos had been open more than 20 years estimated that 5.5 percent to 30 percent of serious crimes in those counties could be attributed to gambling. Particularly alarming, these counties with casinos saw 157 more aggravated assaults per 100,000 residents than non-casino counties did.
If those seeking to expand gambling through the Florida Legislature were successful, it would be opening an entirely new avenue of crime.
Consider these sobering findings from the report “Casinos and Florida: Crime and Prison Costs”:
- Approximately 13 percent of pathological gamblers have assaulted someone for money.
- In the first year after a casino opens, there would be 34 more robberies per 100,000 people, which increase to more than 60 robberies per 100,000 people three years after it opens.
- Casinos would increase crime, burdening the state prison system with billions of dollars of additional costs over a 10-year period.
Any expansion of gambling would pile on more headaches and diversions of manpower to fight against more violent crime, auto theft and larceny. Limited resources and budgetary constraints make it difficult enough for local law enforcement, without the additional burden of more casinos and the cost to taxpayers from the resulting crime.
Crime in Florida is at historical lows. Let’s not risk years of lower and lower crime for the empty promises of get-rich-quick schemes….
Read Sheriff Judd’s full op-ed here.
Contact: Michael Murphy