We have just about two years of data now on legal, recreational marijuana sales in Colorado. The data shows that Colorado has not seen a rise in drug addiction treatments. The data shows there has not been a rise in crime. The data shows there has not been a rise in prostitution or bankruptcies or drug-related divorces or many of the other things predicted.
That is not to say that data will not come. We are only about two years in. The data is already showing a high rate of underage marijuana usage that is affecting student behavior and education. The data is showing an increasing rate of drug-related emergency room visits. But increases in crime, prostitution, divorce, unemployment and bankruptcy have not yet shown up in the data.
Now consider the objective data on casino gambling. Take out the moral issues, which persuade few people, myself included. I do not think there is really a moral problem with gambling. I have been to Las Vegas numerous times, though I suck at poker. Consider the data from non-casino funded studies. Just about every academic, nonprofit and governmental study shows exactly the opposite of what we are finding with legal, recreational marijuana.
From Britain to France to Canada to the United States, the data on casino gambling shows that casinos outside of Las Vegas correspond to an increase in prostitution, an increase in drug use, an increase in bankruptcy, an increase in divorce, an increase in addiction treatment, an increase in crime, and an increase in unemployment.
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Every state that has allowed casinos to come in as a salve for budgetary woes still have their budgetary woes. Atlantic City casinos are going bankrupt. Just ask Donald Trump. Illinois and Louisiana continue to struggle to fund education. All the things casino proponents claimed have been debunked. Only one major claim of casino opponents has been debunked. Casinos do not lead to an increase in suicides — just an increase in crime, divorce, prostitution, bankruptcy, drugs and addiction.
Consider a significant difference between legalizing marijuana and legalizing casinos. Colorado is seeing increases in tax revenue from the sale of marijuana, something not showing up from casinos. In fact, what states that legalize casinos see is that new money does not come into states. Rather, the gamblers now spend their money in casinos and not other places.
Money that a gambler may presently spend in Atlanta at the Georgia Aquarium or Lenox Mall or a sporting event will instead just be spent at the casino. The gambler will not spend more money. Consequently, in places like New Orleans, casinos have drawn in visitors who now don’t go to the French Quarter or Magazine District, but stay in the casino. Small businesses tend to suffer more with a casino than with a new Wal-Mart.
On the last primary ballot, Republicans in the state were asked if they would support casino gambling in Georgia. They voted overwhelming against the proposition. So Republicans in the state Legislature, no doubt encouraged by large campaign donations, have decided to push casinos in Georgia.
That seems to be the guiding rule of thumb these days in Georgia politics. If Republican voters are against something, Republican legislators support it. From billion dollar tax increases to opposition to religious liberty legislation to casinos, the Republican legislators listen more to check writers than their own voters.
All the data suggests marijuana legalization would be less harmful to Georgia than new casinos. So expect Georgia to get casinos in the next year.
Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.