The final stage of a highly-anticipated gambling study was released Thursday, but it provides few clear answers to whether casino towns see higher rates of crime and bankruptcy.
The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission first got a look last May at the study, which asserts the gambling industry had a three and-a-half-billon-dollar impact on the state in 2004.
The study’s author says gambling’s tied to higher rates of bankruptcy, but Racing and Gaming Association president Wes Ehrecke says it doesn’t show that. Ehrecke says they took a good step by using figures from counties with and without casinos, but says over the 10 years both saw the same rate of increase in bankruptcy. He concludes, “the correlation between casinos and crime…between casinos and bankruptcy is not evident.”
The director of the Central Iowa Gambling Treatment Program doesn’t see it that way. Lisa Pierce says law enforcement may not know a crime is linked to gambling, so the numbers might be skewed. She says cops don’t ask if a crime was connected to gambling, and she says that’s a problem with connecting data to crime statistics.
Pierce says she thinks the lack of a connection is due to a lack of time and money.
Senate co-president Jeff Lamberti says he’ll continue to press for more hard data on rates of crime and bankruptcy. Lamberti says he doesn’t see a big increase in crime or bankruptcies in the casino counties versus those without gambling, and he wants to look into it more.
U-N-I Professor Deepak Chhabra, who did the study, says both crime and bankruptcy appear to be higher in counties that have gambling, but critics of the study say those are also counties that have larger cities and the problems likely can be attributed to a larger metro population.