To the Editor:
I felt compelled to respond to the advertisement endorsing gambling in Washington County placed by WEDG. This organization has clearly stated their mission as being economically motivated. They have not been given a mandate to consider the social costs of their efforts, only the economic impact, which is why they explain this issue in terms of "positive effects" and "negative consequences." It seems tempting to consider this issue in terms of assets and liabilities, but will that truly serve the people of our county?
Gambling addiction is a pernicious disease that ruins lives. Even if only 1 percent of our county's population developed this disease, the impact would be great. Our county has approximately 20,000 people in it. One percent would be 200 people. In a county where, if you don't know so-and-so, you probably know someone who does. That is a lot of people!
WEDG may be willing to sacrifice those people on the altar of economic development, but I am not. Those 200 people could include a friend of mine, or one of my children's teachers. It could be the friendly cashier at Fareway or Hy-Vee, maybe even the parents of one of my children's friends.
Gambling affects people who should not be dismissed lightly as "negative consequences." Will the million of dollars that are being promised to the county in various forms make up for the pain and embarrassment of these 200 people? Will it reimburse the businesses in our county that will not be able to collect from these individuals because they have gambled away all of their money?
Studies have shown that there is a definite increase in personal bankruptcy filings in counties with casinos. It is businesses, and ultimately you and I, who pay the cost of bills that are not paid due to bankruptcies. Will the casino replace this money lost?
There is also an increase in crime associated with casinos. Who will reimburse the county for the change this will make in each of our daily lives?
One of the benefits of living in Washington is the safe, family-oriented lifestyle. Are the perceived benefits of having a casino worth changing this forever?
Washington is still reeling from the job losses of the past year, and we are looking to WEDG to fulfill its mandate to bring businesses into the area who will replace those jobs. Casino jobs are not comparable to those that have been lost. What we need are strong companies that bring good jobs and stability to our community with minimal negative impact. I have been told of the wonderful, talented people involved with WEDG, and I believe that they are capable of doing this without relying on gambling.