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Crime Stats Caution Against More Casinos

Ed Fallon

Fallon for Governor, Ed's Blog

August 1, 2003

Crime Stats Caution Against More Casinos

Those who claim that expanding the number of licensed gambling operations in Iowa would help the economy need to review crime statistics, which suggest bringing a casino to one's town also brings increased crime, including domestic abuse.

In Osceola, for example, statistics gathered from Iowa Department of Public Safety (IDPS) crime reports paint a dismal picture of escalating criminality and domestic violence since Lakeside Casino opened in 2000. A comparison of 1998-1999 versus 2001-2002 statistics indicates that crime in Osceola rose by 50%. Likewise, domestic violence jumped 50% from pre-casino days.

In Lee County, in 1994, Fort Madison became home to a riverboat casino. According to IDPS data, crime in that county jumped 98% from 1992-1993 to 1995-1996. IDPS data also shows an even more precipitous crime climb in Altoona, where Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino has operated since 1995. A comparison of 1993-1994 versus 1996-1997 indicates that crime rose 104% and domestic violence rose 111% in Altoona.

Cities attracted to the lure of jobs and tax base that casino operators offer need to balance that lure against the harsh reality of increased crime and loss of local business vitality. In my own legislative district, which includes Des Moines' central business area, the last thing most downtown residents and business owners want is a new casino. This data from IDPS gives additional cause for concern.

Iowa data is consistent with statistics from other parts of the country. According to FBI uniform crime reports, the crime rate in Atlantic City tripled between 1978, when casinos were authorized, and 1981. Atlantic City went from being 50th in the country in crime to first. Overall, it has been found that crime rates in casino communities are 84% higher than the national average, according to J.D. Shapiro in "America's Gambling Fever," published in the January 15, 1996 issue of U.S. News and World Report.

Closer to home, in Minnesota, the crime rate in casino counties has been rising twice as fast as that of non-gambling counties. (This is from a report by McGarth and Ison called "Gambling spawns a new breed of criminal," published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on December 4, 1995.)

The Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission cannot ignore or dismiss this data. Iowa's moratorium on gambling expansion must be preserved. Cities itching for new jobs and casino revenue must recognize that a community's crime and domestic violence rates could very well escalate, and existing businesses and quality of life hurt immeasurably.