Not economic development

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: February 24 2013 | 12:01 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 11:51 am in
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By Michael L. Richards

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A casino can’t claim to be economic development. Casinos simply shift money in the economy. A casino produces no goods or services; there’s no “value-added.”

As investment wizard Warren Buffett puts it, “A casino is a tax on the poor and ignorant. ” Economic development is about the kind of innovation and productivity at which Cedar Rapids excels. A casino is a very stupid old idea.

A 1996 study by Iowa State University researcher Cathy Hsu reported a net retail sales loss when a casino located in Clinton. To hear the Yes Vote promoters’ pitch, you’d think the state of Iowa mints money in every casino basement. The Wall Street Journal recently called casinos a “zero sum game.”

Iowa’s public treasury is addicted to gambling. Iowa, the capital of family frugality, work ethic and human productivity, took a wrong turn decades ago on the slippery slope of a casino economy. Voters can make an intelligent choice March 5 to not follow the Legislature.

Many say a casino is “just entertainment.” I challenge voters to walk through a casino. Ask yourself: Are these people having fun yet? There is no connection, no community, no celebration.

If you can’t find real entertainment in Cedar Rapids, you must not go out often. Professional teams play in great local sports venues. Bars and local musicians entertain crowds nightly. Locally owned cafes provide quality culinary diversion from boring chain cafe fare. I lived in New York for most of a decade, and I find just as great art, music and theater here as I did in the Big Apple.

“Yes People” argue a casino is “free enterprise.” It’s not. It’s state enforced regional monopoly.

A casino damages our community quality of life. One man shared that in his work in county public health he’d reviewed data that for every $100 in gambling revenue, there’s $180 of social cost from divorce, depression, foreclosure, bankruptcy and suicide.

Casino cities had an average 9 percent jump in crime attributed to casinos (2006 research publication “Casinos, Crime, and Community Costs,” by professors Earl Grinols and David Mustard).

There is no economic justification for a casino when you look at both sides of the balance sheet. Let’s focus on real, sustainable economic development to create jobs.

Michael L. Richards of Cedar Rapids, founder, Soyawax International Inc., and a community activist, is a member of the Just Say No Casino group. Comments: soyawax@aol.com

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