Do Social Problems Outweigh Gaming Benefits?
The growth of Indian gambling, cheered by some who say the tribes and states are benefiting economically is jeered by others who say the social toll is not worth it. Nationally, U.S. Indian gambling revenue totaled about $19 billion last year but is about two thirds the size of commercial gambling in states such as Nevada and New Jersey the report states.
“Financially, Indian gaming has been good for the tribes, its been good for the states and the U.S. economy”, Meister said.
His report estimates Indian gambling directly and indirectly contributed $19.4 billion to wages nationally, 539,000 jobs, $6.2 billion in tax revenues and additional revenue with governments of $900 million. Meister estimates the total economic output from the industry at $52.3 billion.
Len Munsil, president and general counsel of the Center For Arizona Policy, a conservative, pro-family public policy group is not impressed with Meister’s report.
“We believe,” says Munsil, ”the problems for families outweigh whatever financial benefit comes to the state. Legalized gambling creates many social problems and what ever is generated by the states does not compare to the pain of increased bankruptcies, suicides, divorces, child abuse, child neglect, domestic violence and overall crime that occurs as a result of legalized gambling.”
The U.S casino industry says studies refute such claims.
Sheila Morago, executive director of the Arizona Indian Gaming Association said Arizona casinos are benefiting tribes and the state with millions of dollars going to schools, tourism promotion, wildlife conservation, medical care and problem-gambling education and treatment.
Jacob Moore, spokesman for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, which operates two “Casino Arizona” facilities stated gambling revenue has accelerated the tribes ability to attack social, economic and infrastructure needs adding to the tribal diversification that began before Indian gaming came along citing the speedier completion of a new high school, a center to assist early childhood development and more than six youth homes to return children in outside foster care homes to the community.
Also, revenue has allowed the tribe to address basic government responsibilities such as roads and sewers that other governments provide for their residents.
Not so, according to Alex Thurber’s “Letter to the Editor” headlined “Casino gambling is non-productive”
Thurber writes, ”Casino gambling produces nothing – as opposed to say a farmer, who invests money in seeds and land preparation hoping to grow a crop worth more than what it cost to prepare the land, plant and harvest.” Guess the man has never read Judy Nichols articles in the “Republic” RE: the Tohono O’odham and their agricultural ventures.
He concludes, “Shame on the Arizona government for creating a mechanism where one segment of the population can reap profits without actually producing anything and takes advantage of the something-for-nothing mentality of the rest of us.”
This column has been edited for length and content. The Meister Report from the Business section of The June 15th edition of The Arizona Republic bylined John Stearns. The letter from Mr. Thurber ran the following day in the editorial section of the paper.
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