Contact your lawmakers and urge them not to approve legislation for expansion of Casino
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH – Lawmakers heading back to Raleigh next week with redistricting on their minds may also be plagued with visions of poker, blackjack and other forms of gambling as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians continues its intense push to expand casino offerings.
While expanded gaming never made it into an actual bill last month, there was plenty of talk of the matter during the last few days of the Legislative session. Gov. Bev Perdue has made it clear that she is open to expanding games at Harrah’s, and now Chief Michell Hicks is putting additional pressure on lawmakers with a Cherokee-funded study that shows the casino contributes more than $380 million to the local economy and draws some 3.6 million visitors a year.
“Cherokee leaders and gambling promoters are turning up the heat on our lawmakers, which is all the more reason we need to let them hear from us that North Carolina doesn’t need Las Vegas style gambling at Harrah’s Casino in Cherokee,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “They can talk about revenues all they want, but lawmakers need to look at the bigger picture, which includes gambling addictions, crime and other social woes that accompany this form of gambling at casinos.”
He pointed out that the study Hicks e-mailed to legislators this week didn’t examine whether or not crime had increased in and around Harrah’s or how the families of those who frequent the casino are faring. But the study did note that while salaries and jobs have increased there is a significant double-digit drop-out rate among Cherokee youth. “That ought to tell you something is going on detrimental to families on the reservation,” said Rev. Creech. “Gambling contributes to the debasement of character of a population by undermining a positive work ethic and the productivity that comes from it. Whenever a culture glorifies gambling, it subtly, incrementally, but surely reverses these American values for the next generation.”
Rev. Creech also argued that people should note who paid for the UNC study. “It was the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Harrah’s, the Cherokee Preservation Foundation and Advantage West that sponsored this study. All of these have a vested interest in maintaining the gambling enterprise at Cherokee,” he said. “So you would expect any negatives in the study to be minimized or left out and all the positives maximized. It’s like asking a league of foxes to finance a study about how beneficial their raiding of hen houses is for the chicken business.”
The study credited Harrah’s with boosting per capita income in western N.C. from 70 percent of the state average in the mid-1990s to more than 80 percent today, and also said that casino hiring represented 5 percent of local employment and 8 percent of all wages and salary disbursements in a two-county area.
Already the gambling complex offers a wide array of electronic gaming, as the state’s 1994 compact with the Eastern Band of Cherokees was expanded in 2000 and again in 2002. Promoters of yet another expansion claim allowing live dealers for games such as Black Jack, Roulette, Craps, etc., would create 400 or more jobs and bring in higher profits.
“We’re not disputing the fact that live dealer games would draw more people or even create some jobs,” said the Rev. Creech. “But at what cost? The gambling addicts attracted to such high stakes games would bring their big money, but they also create a riskier clientele — those more subject to be or become gambling addicts and those more likely to commit crimes and become victims of crimes as well.”
A 2000 study of Casinos, Crimes and Community Costs, which examined county-level data for every U.S. county between 1977 and 1996, found that casinos increased a variety of crimes — robbery, rape, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft — beginning about three to five years after opening.
In addition, money channeled into gambling is often money that would have been spent to support legitimate businesses that contribute more directly to economic growth, or even to provide basic necessities like food and shelter. A study by Creighton professors of law and economics showed a direct long-term correlation between casino presence and individual bankruptcies.
A 2005 report from the N.C. Family Policy Council wisely concluded, “Regardless of how much money a casino is bringing in, it cannot prevent gambling addiction and the destruction of individuals and families alike.”
According to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission and the National Research Council:
• Children of compulsive gamblers are prone to suffer abuse and neglect. They are also more likely to engage in delinquent behaviors such as smoking, drinking and drug use and have a higher risk of developing problem gambling themselves.
• Between one quarter and one half of spouses of compulsive gamblers have been abused.
• The divorce rate for pathological gamblers is two to three times higher than for non-gamblers.
“It’s this destruction – the down side of gambling – that isn’t reported in the study being promoted by Harrah’s and the Eastern Band of Cherokee. But lawmakers really need to understand this side before exposing the Cherokee people, as well as the millions of tourists who come to visit there each year, to forms of gambling considerably more predatory in nature than what the Casino is currently allowed.” the Rev. Creech said. “Government is charged with protecting the life, liberty, and property of the people. Gambling addictions kill in that they are a major culprit of suicide. Gambling can and often robs people of their liberty, making them slaves of the practice. And, it is essentially a form of mutual theft, where someone takes someone else’s property without due compensation for it. It’s an insidious enterprise and we urge Christians across this state to contact their lawmakers now and ask them not to expand gambling at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino.”
Take Christian Action: Contact your lawmaker in both the House and the Senate and ask him/her not to support any legislation that would allow the Cherokee to expand at Harrah’s Casino to allow Class III, Las Vegas style gambling. To contact your lawmakers click here