A continuing series by past Lakewood city councilmember John Arbeeny.
Gambling myth #3 claims that “Gambling provides jobs in Lakewood.” Undoubtedly there is an element of truth in this statement as there is in most myths. The gambling industry has stated that it created 600+ jobs in Lakewood. The question is what kinds of jobs, for whom and at what cost to Lakewood?
I have listened to the testimony of many casino employees who have stated that they would have been on welfare if the casinos hadn’t given them a job. While this may have helped their personal financial situation in the near term, I question whether a “job of last resort” is the kind of job we want more of in Lakewood. A far wider range of jobs is already provided by non-gambling of businesses in Lakewood which would increase in the absence of casinos: more retail sales equal more jobs. While we do need entry level jobs for those just starting out, those jobs should lead to something bigger and better.
What exactly is the career progression for a blackjack dealer other than to another casino?
I find it remarkable to look at the addresses of the casino employees who have signed up to represent the casinos’ interests at public hearings before the Planning Advisory Board or City Council. The overwhelming majority are from areas outside the City of Lakewood: Puyallup, Lacey and Tacoma, just to name a few. This is no fluke and appears to be consistent for all the meetings I have attended. While I welcome jobs in Lakewood, I would prefer to have jobs for Lakewood, held by Lakewood citizens. To create jobs in Lakewood for a business that demonstrably harms our community and our economy which are then filled by non-residents is a double whammy.
I strongly suspect that the majority of money earned by casino employees who do not live in Lakewood leaves the city when they go home after work, just as their Canadian based employer pulls the profits from Lakewood at the end of the day. Do out-of-town casino employees do a lot of shopping in Lakewood given their hours in a casino? I doubt it: they shop where they live. I’d suggest that these employees become as politically active where they live as they are in Lakewood and petition their city councils to allow gambling with all its purported benefits in their municipalities. Maybe those cities know something that Lakewood’s city council doesn’t know or doesn’t want to know.
Casinos aren’t the only businesses that provide jobs in Lakewood. The difference is that the jobs provided by non-gambling businesses don’t come with the negative impacts that gambling and gambling jobs bring to Lakewood.
We have to balance the benefit gained by the employment of 600+ casino employees against the cost to our city. Are casino jobs a fair exchange for the 600-1200+ problem gamblers who live in Lakewood? You can calculate that the cost of these jobs, beyond what the casinos pay them, to be about $25,000 each in social and economic losses to the City of Lakewood ($15M in social costs divided by 600 gambling jobs). That is too high a price to pay for any gambling job.
Lastly, there is a net loss of “real” non-gambling jobs in Lakewood due to gambling’s negative impact on the economy as a whole as stated in Myth #2.
The exact number lost may be a hard number to pin down, but can be deduced by the slowing of retail sales and loss of significant purchasing power due to the drain on our economy represents a corresponding loss in non-gambling jobs. Additionally there are jobs lost by gambling addicts who are fired, beset by gambling related personal problems, or engage in theft and embezzlement to support their gambling habit. Casino jobs, just like casino “income” represent a net loss to Lakewood.
If you’d like to learn more about the impact gambling has on Lakewood and become part of the solution, I’d invite you to go to www.SaveLakewood.com. Find out how you can help bring the current initiative to ban casino gambling to a vote of the people. Time is short for signature gathering (4 July 2008) and we must have enough signatures (about 5,000) to qualify the initiative for the ballot.
Your help is vital! You can make a difference! Direct government via the initiative process when government fails to act: a clear winner for Lakewood voters! Please forward this e-mail to people on your personal mail list and urge them to act. Petitions for your signatures can be downloaded from www.SaveLakewood.com.
One more thing. If you believe that the people of Lakewood should not have to support the gambling industry in our community, send your council members an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Past Council member and Deputy Mayor
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