There exists no greater immediate threat to the most treasured battlefield within the United States than the recent proposed casino project. In a February 2006 press release, The Civil War Preservation Trust, America's largest non-profit organization devoted to the preservation of our nation's endangered Civil War battlefields, stated, "Although the park is the most visited battlefield in the country and is the cornerstone of the local economy, the Gettysburg that millions of Americans have come to know and love is threatened by a proposal to build a massive, 3,000-slot gaming facility". I do not write today to criticize gambling but to help save this precious battlefield.
Gambling increases the amount of crime experienced by the communities that host gambling. According to a 2005 study by Aborn and Bennett, two communities in Mississippi experienced dramatic increases in crime from their pre-gambling levels. To quote their report, "Crime increases were seen in every category with murder, rape, robbery, and car theft at least doubling." With the advent of gambling, they experienced a 300% increase in bank robberies in just one year. Alcohol related accidents increased 101%, prostitution related arrests rose 85%, and drug arrests jumped 152%. In the five years previous to gambling, the crime rates had actually decreased by 42%.
A little closer to Pennsylvania, when considering Atlantic City, "In the first ten years the city had casinos, the total crime index rose a staggering 258%…Violent crime rose 199%, and larceny skyrocketed 481%." Atlantic City’s crime rates in 2002 were 3 times the national average and 4 times that of New York City.
A casino brings increased demand for law enforcement, crime-victim advocacy and support, social services, medical services (especially at local hospital emergency departments), emergency services (both ambulance, rescue, and fire), and welfare funding. The need for more social services will include addictions services (both gambling and substance abuse), crisis services, and housing. Housing typically means placement in an area hotel room at the cost of the local tax payers.
I have worked in the social service field, primarily with the mental health and addictions populations, for two decades in two different states including Pennsylvania. Officials predictably promise sufficient funding to address the problems associated with casinos whenever they propose such projects. In my experience, those promises remain broken. I know of no agency or public service entity which reports sufficient funding to meet the existing needs of the people they serve much less the expected expanded needs.
Even if the funds did exist however, by design, the person wishing to access those services must first display a need for those services. This is a key issue. To access the proposed expanded law enforcement services, someone must first be a victim or the intended victim of a crime. To access addiction services, someone must first become addicted. To access victims services, someone must first be victimized. Therefore, by design, people must first suffer in order for the proposed services to begin to address the need. Those who suffer will include people who never set foot in the casino. Since many health insurance providers limit the amount of covered addition services, those with the greatest need will inevitably go without treatment to their and the community‘s detriment. Sadly, since funding will not meet the anticipated expanded need generated by the casino‘s presence, all community members who need law enforcement, medical, or social services may experience decreased access.
Casino advocates have of course spoken of prevention. However, since the casino only profits if the majority of those gambling lose money, talk of prevention seems empty. By definition, in order to survive, the casino must attract a consistent and steady stream of people who lose money. Casino survival is simple mathematics. That loss contributes to the problems that will not receive adequate funding which in turn threatens the community and the battlefield
I say none of the above to disparage or insult the populations needing services or the providers attempting to meet these needs. However, the reality exists that when you introduce gambling, especially on such a large scale as proposed, personal and societal ills always have, and always will, follow. The costs will not be covered and the Gettysburg area as a whole, the town, the people, and the battlefield, will suffer irreparable harm.
Some of those who commit gambling related crimes will do so on the roads and grounds of the battlefield. This will tax already limited park financial and personnel resources. Increased crime means an increased threat to the battlefield. The park, its irreplaceable monuments, and other historic homes and structures will suffer increased damage due to automobile accidents, drunk driving, theft, and vandalism. Resources will be pulled due to under-funding and the battlefield will suffer. Again, simple mathematics. Much of the damage that will occur will be irreversible. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and the nation will be poorer for it. This cannot happen. We cannot allow this.
Whether you are a Pennsylvania resident, a tourist from out of state, or you simply love our history, please contact any or all of the Government officials below and let them know that you consider the mere thought of a casino near Gettysburg completely unacceptable. Take time to write a few words and you will help save these grounds for our current generation and all those yet to come.
Governor Ed Rendell
Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter
Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum
Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Candidate Lynn Swann
Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board
Please visit my primary site at www.brotherswar.com
All original material Copyright © 2006. All Rights Reserved
Civil War Preservation Trust
The Connection Between Gambling and Crime
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