In Mr. Arbeeny’s recent letter regarding what he calls “gambling myth #1”, he accuses the city council of being liars, and states “It is possible to have a balanced budget despite falling revenues and without cutting public safety.”
I take him at his word when he says that Lakewood could survive without this $2.5 million. Perhaps he’s correct when he says, “A budgetary day of reckoning is coming, gambling or no gambling” and that to balance the budget, the city needs to cut revenue. That’s why I’ve suggested, in a few discussions, that Lakewood take this $2.5 million and donate the entire amount, each year, to the Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling. The city doesn’t need it, and it would certainly go a long way towards helping the microscopic percentage of the overall population who have an uncontrolled gambling addiction.
However, closing the casinos isn’t going to cure the addicts. They’ll go to Lacey, or Fife, or the reservation, or online, or make an even worse choice and buy lottery tickets, or play in unregulated games, where the fairness isn’t guaranteed, and where security is questionable (see e.g., en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wah_Mee_massacre). Having legal, taxed, regulated, secure casinos are better than any of the alternatives.
I concur with Ms. Butterfield’s letter of June 4: I also would like to know how much the city spends dealing with crime directly associated with the gambling facilities, and to know if there is any real data showing the social costs of gambling specific to Lakewood. If there really is a substantial increase in crime or social costs to the city because of the casinos’ existence, I’d be happy to take my gambling dollars to Lacey. If not, I’d prefer that my gambling funds support jobs and the infrastructure of my home town.
Mr. Arbeeny’s assertion that money earned by the casinos is “sucked out of our economy” and that “$20M was taken out of Lakewood’s economy by casinos” is preposterous. By the same logic, money spent on groceries at Albertsons sucks money out of our economy, purchasing dinner at Black Angus takes money out of circulation, and buying a ticket at Lakewood Playhouse is bad for all of us. Grocery stores, restaurants, and, yes, casinos employ Lakewood residents, pay taxes to Lakewood, and bring outside dollars into the town.
He rhetorically asks, “who wants to live or own a business in a community that fosters gambling?” Well, for months, Happy Days poker players brought food donations for Northwest Harvest, and last November and December made toy donations to a children’s charity. Great American sponsored several events for the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce, sponsored the Communities in Schools “Champions for Youth Breakfast”, and sponsored the Lakewood Police Department’s Special Olympics Golf Tournament. When Happy Days closed down, their player-supported poker jackpot of about $50,000 went to the commission on problem gambling. And, as Mr. Arbeeny repeatedly points out, the casinos paid millions of dollars in taxes to the city last year. Who wants to live in a community with legal, safe casinos? I do.
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