When Michigan residents voted to allow casino gambling in Detroit almost two decades ago, they did so because of the really big promises that were made to them. They were told that casino gambling would bring much needed new revenue to the city so that services provided by the police and fire department would be vastly improved and their garbage would be collected each week and public transportation would be improved so that people who had jobs could get to them on time.
They were told that people would come from all over the country to gamble in the three casinos that now hover over the city’s cultural area, throwing their shadows across the ever growing expanse of deserted neighborhoods where some of the poorest residents reside.
It did not happen. The new and high tech gold rush that promised to spill its riches onto the streets of Detroit could not save the city. Detroit is going broke.
As experts like John Kindt and Earl Grinols have shown again and again, putting casinos in cities that are already struggling as a result of population loss, the decline of manufacturing jobs, failing schools, and other urban infrastructure problems too numerous to list here, does not bring economic development.
Of course, it would be foolish to attribute the fact that Detroit is broke to gambling. In a special report for WTVS-Detroit, Desiree Cooper showed how badly things are in Detroit and how some communities are trying to cope.
But every time I visit the city of my birth, I hear stories about people, most of them black women, who have lost what little they had in the casinos in the hope that they would get a little something back.
It’s too late to turn things around in Detroit and elsewhere in the country where casino gambling has been touted as the cure all for failing economies. But as more and more public officials across this country keep singing the same song about how gambling will create new jobs and improve their local and state economies, it’s important to keep in mind that for that to happen, ordinary, hardworking citizens must lose millions of dollars.
Back in the days when it was illegal, gambling was considered a really dumb way to try and “make” some money to pay our bills. It still is, despite what our politicians tell us as they sell us down the river.
Sandra Adell, Author, CONFESSIONS OF A SLOT MACHINE QUEEN: A MEMOIR