To the Editor:

What happens in Vegas….

This 2003 marketing campaign is considered the most successful in tourism history. In fact, when most of you read the title your mind finished the slogan. I would like to take a look at the local impact of a casino on our town.

Dr. David Philips, a University of California-San Diego sociologist, found that “visitors to and residents of gaming communities experience significantly elevated suicide levels.” In fact, for all the excitement and entertainment portrayed in Las Vegas, the city has the highest suicide rate in the US and it is not even close. The National Council on Problem Gambling reports that one out of five addicted gamblers attempts suicide.

In Illinois, a survey of 200 members of Gamblers Anonymous found that 66% had contemplated suicide and 16% had attempted suicide. In Biloxi, MS the suicide rate jumped 1,000% in the first year after opening a Casino. This is a significant problem for Danville as our city already holds one of the highest suicide rates in Virginia. These statistics alone should drive us to vote against a casino.

A study done by the University of Buffalo shows that living within 10 miles of a casino more than doubles the rate of excessive gambling. This study also showed that casino gambling had the most harmful effects on people on the lower end of the income ladder. We have heard the promises of how a casino will be good for the economy of Danville, bring jobs to our region, and help our city. Studies like this one actually demonstrate that a Casino will be destructive to our neighbors while preying on them and stealing their money.

Alas, let’s discuss the promise of jobs. This promise is really the focal point of bringing a casino to Danville. While a casino would bring some jobs to the area, the long-term effect must be considered for our city. casinos often come into a town with the promise of jobs. They open the casino and hire dealers for Blackjack, Poker, and other gambling options.

The problem is that over time a casino knows that their end game is the slot machine. A slot machine takes human employment out of the gambling experience and allows more money to be made by the casino. That money doesn’t stay in Danville. I have also seen first hand how a casino changes the landscape of a town.

The arrival of a casino has a devastating effect to small local businesses. The local restaurants cannot compete with the food prices that the casino restaurants have because it is offset by the gambling. The majority of the money is being taken from local citizens that no longer have the means to buy things from the local businesses. Very quickly, local businesses will be driven out of town.

If casinos bring so many jobs, you would think Las Vegas and Atlantic City would have a very low unemployment rate. The reality is that both of these cities have a much higher unemployment rate than the national average.

The last thing I want to consider concerning a casino in Danville is what a casino brings with it. This takes us back to Las Vegas’ slogan. What the marketing firm realized is that a casino cannot run just on gambling alone. Just look at all the recent closings of casinos in Atlantic City. Las Vegas is not just promising “what you gamble in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” No, the commercials are very clear. For gambling to prosper, it brings with it prostitution, drugs, and all forms of deviation.

This is exactly what Las Vegas promotes and is the reason people continually flock to the city. Is this what residents of Danville should desire for their city? Is this what we should be hoping for our kids, our neighbors, and our coworkers? This decision will impact our town for generations to come. Let’s not stand idly by believing some empty promises that this will have a positive impact on our town. It will have an impact, but it will not be positive. Let’s let what happens in Vegas stay in Vegas because we don’t want it in Danville.

Steve Chromy

Dry Fork, Va.

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