The long-delayed casino near the sports stadium complex in South Philadelphia received another extension from the often-acquiescent Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
This casino has gone through changes in names, locations, and owners since the license was awarded in 2006 to Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia, which failed to get financing. The latest developer – who has close ties to President Trump and has been accused of racial discrimination — now says the Live! Hotel & Casino Philadelphia will open in 2020.
But this is one can we would be happy to see continually kicked down the road.
The reason is simple: More gambling in the poorest big city in America is no way to grow a sustainable economy. The addition of a couple of hundred casino jobs in a city of 1.5 million is not worth the hundreds of millions of dollars in wealth that will be stripped from customers annually.
Americans lost $107 billion last year at casinos, lotteries, and offshore regulated betting, according to H2 Gambling Capital. They are projected to lose more than $1 trillion in wealth to government-sanctioned gambling over the next eight years, the head of Stop Predatory Gambling told a House subcommittee in September. Gamblers in Pennsylvania casinos have gone home more than $30 billion poorer since gambling was legalized in 2006.
Supporters tout casinos as just another form of entertainment, and never dare utter the word gambling. The industry term is gaming, as if casinos are just fun and games. But this is hardly a benign business.
Casinos aggressively market to gamblers. Studies show anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of casino revenues come from problem or pathological gamblers. And many casinos get 90 percent of their revenue from 10 percent of customers.
A SugarHouse official once boasted that a large percentage of their customers come "three, four, five times a week." A Harrah's casino official in Chester said a segment of its customers come nearly six times a week.
Today's sophisticated slot machines are designed to addict gamblers. Sadly, the state lawmakers who enabled casinos and continue to expand gambling – including a new law that allows betting at truck stops, airports, and online — are just as addicted to the tax revenue generated from citizens they are sworn to protect.
Adding a casino within a stone's throw of the stadium complex is a particularly bad idea. The recent legalization of sports betting will make it easier for fans to bet on their way into games, spurring further losses and addiction.
It also threatens to damage the integrity of sports. Imagine if a casino was in the Vet Stadium parking lot when Pete Rose played for the Phillies. But the sports leagues that once opposed betting on games now want in on the action. Major League Baseball just named MGM Resorts International its official "gaming" partner.
Having a casino operating round the clock next to the parking lot where thousands of Eagles fans party for hours before and after games is also asking for trouble. Same goes for concert fans and other sports fans.
The state and city should stop betting against residents and enact polices that help build wealth.