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Does Gaming Do More Local Harm Than Good?

(Forget what you’ve heard about the questionable element gaming development is said to attract. Images of sleazy retail hovering on the outskirts of the acreage or a sleazier denizen of local watering holes pale in comparison to the economic transfusion a casino can bring to an otherwise fiscally anemic locale. So said 78% of respondents to last week’s Feedback Poll, and so says French, whose comments appear below.-ed.)

I’m definitely in the camp of the 78%, but with a caveat. The caveat is that there has to be a formula that works, that recognizes the long-term potential of a specific community or jurisdiction. As we expand gaming, not only domestically but internationally, the industry learns from the mistakes that may have been made in the past.

For instance, we know there must be a taxing structure in place for a municipality, a state, a province, a country, that will promote and fund various economic programs to avoid long-term problems. There’s a lot of history as to the types of funding that gaming can provide to promote a more well-balanced community, in terms of such things as schools and safety. If you make sure the formula is adequate, it can take care of a lot of activities that normally would not get funding.

In terms of the “other element” gaming is said to attract, you may hear a lot about that. You ask me if the good far outweighs the bad, I say yes. In those areas where gaming has been introduced, there are people with no jobs who are living below the poverty level; there’s no economic base. So you’re taking a place with a tremendous need and turning it around.

Will there be shoplifting? Will there be instances of pathological gaming? Yes, there will be. But this is one of the most highly regulated businesses on the planet. It could happen that there are other businesses that do not go through the same regulatory scrutiny on the outskirts of the development. In most cases the community should be cognizant of that potential and guard against it. Furthermore, they probably will have the dollars to support the policing of those types of activities, which they would not have if there been no casino gaming.

Michael French is a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and oversees the hospitality and gaming advisory practice. He is based in the Philadelphia office. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.

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