The recent publicity about Milwaukee attorney Thomas Koch, who was charged last week with having embezzled over $2 million from business clients in order to gamble at Potawatomi Casino, generated online comments about attorney misconduct, but very little about the casino itself and how its recently completed expansion contributes to this kind of addictive, and in Koch’s case, criminal behavior. Completed in June, 2008, the expansion added about 1200 slot machines, bringing the total to over 3,000, including the very addictive interactive video slots and video poker.
According to an article in the August 22, 2009, issue of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel titled “Potawatomi Casino Bucks Slump in Gaming Industry,” Potawatomi’s net win had jumped 9.5% by 2008, despite the economic crisis that by then had a death grip on most of the country. In fact, the crisis is what helped Potawatomi relieve its patrons of 43% more of their money than during the previous year. The Milwaukee Journal reported that the casino’s net win was nearly $400 million. But that is only an estimate, based on what the Potawatomi are required to pay the City and County of Milwaukee. As a sovereign nation, the tribe doesn’t have to report its real profits.
One thing is sure though: nearly 80% of that revenue came from slot machines. And the people who were playing the slots were not coming from out of town. Tourism is one of the ways local and state politicians seduce the public into accepting casinos as a very good thing for the economy. The people who visit Potawatomi are not tourists. They’re local residents, and although the casino probably will never release any of the reams of information it gathers from each of its rewards players, it’s not unreasonable to assume that many of them are living closer to the poverty line than was Thomas Koch when he started embezzling money to support his too frequent trips to the gambling tables and the slot machines. But then, as the Milwaukee Journal article boasted, you don’t have to go far to lose your money. For Milwaukee residents the Potawatomi Casino is close by, another reason the rates of gambling addiction are rising in Wisconsin.