Opinion Columns & Blogs

The casinos are coming and we can’t keep HOPE alive once they arrive

Republican members of the Georgia Legislature have decided to kill the HOPE scholarship. As you read this, Republicans in the Legislature are pushing through legislation that, in every single state it has been tried in, resulted in lower lottery revenue, lower education spending, increased bankruptcies, increased closure of small businesses, and increased crime. That is no hyperbole.

I am, of course, talking about the Republican effort to bring casinos to Georgia, about which they cannot even be honest. They are calling the legislation “destination resort” legislation. You should ask yourself why they cannot even be honest about it. They are engaging in crony capitalism at its worst, and the corruption reeks. I have no problem with gambling. I have no moral objection and have frequently been to Las Vegas. But Las Vegas is in a desert for a reason.

Every state that has brought in casinos to solve education woes has seen increased problems. A recent Emory University Law School study found that state economies lose one job per year for every slot machine or electronic gambling machine introduced into a state. A University of New Orleans study showed non-gambling businesses abandon areas where casinos are built. Another study showed people living near gambling facilities “spent 10 percent less on food, 25 percent less on clothing, and 37 percent had raided their bank accounts in order to gamble.”

The result of this legislation will be the death of the HOPE scholarship, which is already struggling. The people most likely to buy lottery tickets are also the most likely to redirect their spare change for casinos. Every study not subsidized by the casino industry has found the same result. French, British, Canadian and Australian studies all corroborate the findings of American studies of casino gambling.

The real world results show the same. Southern Wisconsin saw an increase in bankruptcies, addiction, crime and prostitution once casinos were admitted to boost education funding. What Wisconsin did not see was an increase in education funding. The same happened in Illinois, Missouri, Louisiana, and every other state that introduced casinos. Even Atlantic City cannot sustain its casino business. Just ask President Trump.

Natasha Schull, an MIT professor, documented that 25 percent of gamblers made up 96 percent of casino profits. That 25 percent of gamblers were those with addiction problems. Emory University showed that crime increases 10 percent per year in communities with casinos. Another study showed personal and business bankruptcies increase over 30 percent within 30 miles of casinos. The hardest hit businesses are small, non-franchise businesses, i.e. mom and pop stores and restaurants.

Already the Georgia Lottery Corporation pours less than 25 percent of its revenue into education funding. In 1995, it contributed 35.1 percent of its revenue. Adding casinos to Georgia will decrease that amount further and kill the HOPE scholarship. We delude ourselves by thinking Georgia could be an exception to every other state that has tried using casinos to increase revenue.

Why are Republicans doing this? Look at their campaign contribution reports. Casino corporations are pouring money into the pockets of Georgia Republicans. Casinos know suckers when they see them. It is where they get their profit. And right now the biggest suckers in America are in Georgia’s Legislature.

Republicans in Georgia forget the one rule of gambling you should never forget. The house always wins. Casinos will get a great deal and Georgians will see an increase in crime and bankruptcies and the end of the HOPE scholarship. But a few legislators will no doubt get cushy jobs for themselves and their families.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.