Earlier this month Park County’s commissioners approved placing before county voters in November the question of allowing pari-mutuel gambling in the county.
Commissioner Jake Fulkerson called the money the county would receive from pari-mutuel gambling a “revenue stream for the cities and counties at a time when the state and everybody else is chasing nickels.”
Not so fast.
The revenue from gambling is not all free money coming from those who can’t control their vices to pay taxes for all of us who think we can.
A 2011 empirical study by Baylor University reported the impact on society of just one additional pathological gambler costs about $9,393 per year.
Those costs come from increases in crime, lost job productivity and theft from jobs, bankruptcy, suicide, illness, and social services costs including therapy, unemployment, welfare and food stamps along with harm to families including divorce and separation.
The revenues derived from gambling come at a high price to governments, independent businesses, social service providers and families. Most of all families.
A separate survey done by Dr. Henry Lesieur of Gamblers Anonymous says that 26% of those in Gamblers Anonymous had a divorce or were separated; 36% had lost or quit a job because of gambling; 21% had filed for bankruptcy; 44% said they had stolen from work to pay gambling debts; 18% said they had gambling-related arrests; 66% said they had contemplated suicide and 16% said they had attempted suicide.
That same study reported for every $1 that a community earns from gambling, $3-7 is taken from the community in lost business. The simple logic being if you spend $1 gambling, that is one less $1 you have to spend on something else.
A few weeks ago the commissioners cut the funding for Crisis Intervention Services by 18% because of budget constraints. Crisis Intervention is a service that is very important in helping protect the innocent in cases of addiction.
Gambling in almost all forms is a way for governments to collect some extra revenue, but at a tremendous cost to those same governments and the individuals living in those communities.
We already have enough gambling in Wyoming. Allowing pari-mutuel gambling in Park County would be a terrible, tragic mistake that could take a tremendous toll on its residents.