Gambling in America is a personal quest – a worthy, earnest and quietly passionate look at how we should examine the industry and make decisions about expanding casino empires.
If there’s a subject surrounding the gambling industry, chances are someone’s written a book about it.
Whether it’s strikes (Vegas at Odds), the rise of the mega-resort (Supercasino) or murder-cum-poker triumph (Positively Fifth Street), Sin City is an endless vein of inspiration.
Author: Professor Earl L Grinols
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
So, how do we get the dry, academic title: “Gambling In America: Costs and Benefits”? Gambling – the industry so tarnished by an historic reputation for corruption, so widely accused of suspect morals, yet retains its romantic image in the minds of Hollywood execs. The subject that, perhaps more than any other, divides the US via a chasm bigger than the Grand Canyon.
And then, of course, an economics professor has to come along and make it all seem so…unglamorous. Gambling in America: Costs and Benefits is written by Earl L. Grinols, a professor who has taught at MIT and has advised governments during a decades-long career (he was instrumental in the decision to set up a federal gambling commission in the US).
The book is about the impact that a casino has on its immediate neighbours. Taking into account the social, economic and environmental impact of a venture, what exactly are the costs and benefits to a community small and wide when a new casino rolls into town, and do the benefits outweigh the costs to justify the casino being there in the first place?
Existing tools and research for deciding if a casino is going to be ‘good’ for a town are flawed; they’re unduly influenced by those who will gain and they use equations that don’t ask the right questions.
Casino employees rarely come from the area they are built in, and Prof. Grinols argues that small businesses go under due to the wasted man hours from employees who become drawn to the slot machines. Add in to that mix the costs to the community of gambling addiction and the drain on public resources, and it makes for a deadly mix.
Grinols feels that decision-makers are ill-informed and ill-equipped to judge if a casino will have a positive impact on a community. They’re not considering the losses to jobs and small businesses in their town because they’re blinded by a casino-owner talking up increased tourism (admittedly a mouth-watering proposition), but then only really profits the casino.
Casino firms don’t consider the increase in crime in the cost-benefit equation because it’s not deemed a direct action of the casino. And while everyone knows that a minority of people will become ‘pathological gamblers’ and prop up casino profits, that’s just factored in as ‘genetic predisposition’.
Interestingly, in South Carolina in 2000 the courts banned slot machines. Within six months the state’s 32 active Gamblers Anonymous support groups had all but disappeared. Despite all the positive attention that the casino industry enjoys, casinos will always, Grinol argues, fail an accurately conducted cost-benefit analysis.
We’re all a herd of buffalo, he continues, who can’t help but stampede over the cliffs. Those at the front know the danger, but have no ability to stop because those at the back, who could stop, are clueless to the danger.
Earl L Grinols is a Professor of Economics – clearly a man of great influence on significant American decision-makers. Gambling in America is a personal quest – a worthy, earnest and quietly passionate look at how we should examine the industry and make decisions about expanding casino empires.
It all reads very well – it’s clear, informed, it endeavours to be as objective as possible and, if you skip chapter 5, which contains mathematical equations that would make most laymans’ brains slowly bleed out of their ears, you will find this an instructive and earnest read. Useful – perhaps, interesting – to a degree, but, “50 Shades of Gambling” it ain’t!