Philadelphia’s long-delayed SugarHouse Casino, the city’s first, opened today. SugarHouse, which features 40 table games and 1,600 slot machines, turned Philadelphia into the nation’s largest city with a casino, according to the AP.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has more on the controversy around the SugarHouse Casino:
SugarHouse Casino will officially open its doors on the Delaware waterfront today, straddling the border of Fishtown and Northern Liberties and beginning the era of legalized gambling in Philadelphia.
Casino supporters say the gaming hall will be an economic engine that will revitalize the city. Opponents say introducing gambling into depressed neighborhoods is like putting a match to dried tinder, enflaming existing problems people may have with money, relationships and jobs.
For its part, SugarHouse has bought goodwill with the currency casinos understand best: Cash. So far, the casino has given $175,000 to the Penn Treaty Special Services District, created to distribute casino money to organizations in the surrounding neighborhoods. More money is coming, and the district is expected to get $1 million annually from the casino starting in 2012.
That’s exactly why any government would be attracted to a casino, especially during a recession. Stateline describes the proliferation of casinos as tax revenue cows:
States are more addicted to gambling revenue than ever as the lure of easy new money for schools, tax relief and public services has led to an explosion of state-sanctioned casinos, slot machines at racetracks and lottery games.
Twenty-five years ago, gambling was legal in only three states. Now every state except Utah and Hawaii rely on gambling to generate revenues to help avoid raising taxes.
Bets can be placed in nearly 900 casinos – 455 privately run in 11 states, 406 on Indian reservations in 29 states and 29 racetrack casinos – known as racinos — in 11 states. And at least nine states (Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio and Texas) are considering opening their doors to casino or racetrack gambling.
The economic downturn early this decade was horrific for state budgets but helped push gambling into a mainstream form of entertainment. Gambling now attracts more than twice as many dollars as Americans spend on movie tickets, CDs, sporting events and concerts, according to the CNHI News Service (Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.). Gaming generates more than $20 billion a year in taxes and lottery revenues for state budgets, according to industry estimates that don’t include fees from Native American-run casinos.
SugarHouse may be Philadelphia’s first casino, but the statistics above indicate that, if Philadelphia likes the revenue potential as much as other places in the US, it won’t be the last. (Donald Trump, incidentally, is suing the state for not allowing him to get in on the Philly casino action. Just wait, Donald, your turn will come.)