There are certain similarities between the Manchester region of the United Kingdom and Connecticut in the United States. Both previously had thriving manufacturing industries and both saw these industries rapidly shrink with the advent of cheaper production costs in developing nations around the world. The Port of Manchester in 1963 was the third largest in the country, employing over 3,000 people. The port was closed in 1982. In Connecticut shipbuilding industry jobs were reduced by over 50%.
Today Connecticut is known for being the richest state in the United States and much of that wealth has been created by the employment and tourism brought to the state by two of the world’s largest casinos – Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods. Both tribes contribute millions of dollars annually to social projects and charities as well as to local communities. Payroll taxes from around 20,000 casino employees also go to the state. Then there is the casino spending on goods and services in the area.
Much of a casino operation is based on numbers and for employment growth and economic boost the numbers in Connecticut speak for themselves. So much so that it widely accepted that without its casinos the state would have had a difficult time economically. In neighbouring Massachusetts the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is seeking to open a casino in Middleborough. If it is successful then the buses that ferry people from Massachusetts to gamble in Connecticut may well see a reduction in passengers.
Kansas is another state considering licensing casinos. Those against the idea frequently quote higher crime rates as a good reason for opposing the plan. A recent debate on crime held in Kansas considered the experiences of Oklahoma and Missouri, where the same argument of increased crime had been used before those states licensed casinos. Oklahoma had seen only a rise in traffic violations, stemming from increased traffic around the casinos. Missouri officials said that the expected significant increase in crime had just not materialised.
Most of the arguments against a super casino in Manchester are not based on facts but arise from a dogmatic dislike of the gaming industry. The troubling issue of problem gambling will not be solved by preventing the development of a casino complex with jackpot machines in Manchester. There are too many alternative opportunities for gambling, most far less well regulated than in a casino.
Manchester could, like Connecticut, become a hub for foreign and national visitors, with more money to spend on the arts and other tourist attractions. It just needs the go-ahead for the regional casino to bring in millions of pounds of new investment and the prospect of work for thousands of families. The risk of problem gambling at the casino should be of concern but could be adequately addressed by the requirement of vigorous staff training programmes and the excellent organisations already in existence, such as GamCare.
That groups purportedly acting on behalf of the relatively small number of people with a personality disorder, who could be adversely affected by jackpot machines, can hold an industry to ransom seems somewhat bizarre, particularly as there is no similar move to prevent alcohol being sold to possible alcoholics. Just as it is not alcohol that creates alcoholics, it is not gambling that creates gambling addicts. The UK government would do better to let the market economy and local communities decide on the number and size of casinos in their area and concentrate on regulation and oversight. (E-07.27.07)
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