Sacramento Business Journal
It’s understandable that some residents of Elk Grove are upset about plans by the Wilton Rancheria tribe to build a 312-room hotel and casino in their community.
Its scale suggests some very large crowds engaged in activity that, for many people, goes hand-in-hand with bad decisions, and scenes that are hard to picture in someplace so suburban.
The exterior of the resort that the Wilton Rancheria tribe is planning in Elk Grove.
WILTON RANCHERIA TRIBE
But the Wilton casino’s future neighbors should keep an open mind. Recent history shows that the things people fear about casinos coming to their communities often don’t come to pass. And at the same time, gambling can bring economic benefits.
Crime is often one concern for neighbors of potential casinos. But, in recent years, academic studies have found little if any connection between casino gambling and a city’s crime rate, according to a review of academic literature on gambling published last month in the journal Current Addiction Reports.
Recent studies also show little link between casinos and local rates of personal bankruptcy filings, suggesting that addictive gambling doesn’t necessarily increase in communities where new casinos open.
That makes sense. The internet allows you to gamble your money away from the comfort of your own home, if you so choose. So why would a casino in town make any difference?
What the academic literature of recent years does show, however, is consistent evidence of at least modest employment and income gains in counties that allow new casinos.
And in the Sacramento area, those gains may be more than modest.
The region’s American Indian casinos in Yolo, Placer and El Dorado counties employ a combined 6,000 people.
And they appear to be supporting those jobs with revenue that might otherwise have gone to casinos in Nevada.
“The Indian casinos and the gambling in the Sacramento area have had a huge impact on Reno,” said Jeff Michael, director of the Center for Business and Policy Research at the University of the Pacific. “Certainly, the impact locally has been keeping gambling dollars spent locally that would have often gone to Reno in the past. .. It creates local jobs by keeping those tourism and gambling” enterprises here.
The main risk that a new casino could bring is that it could take business away from local restaurants and other entertainment options.
But the Sacramento region’s casinos invest heavily in bringing in customers from beyond the area.
Thunder Valley Casino Resort, near Rocklin, has billboards along freeways all throughout Northern California. Yolo County’s Cache Creek Casino Resort advertises on baseball games in the Bay Area. And both are in the midst of adding new hotel rooms.
If Elk Grove’s leaders want to make sure the city benefits from its casino, they should exert whatever pressure they can on the Wilton Rancheria to make the necessary investments for its casino to also be a regional tourist destination that can attract gamblers from the Bay Area and beyond. And Elk Grove should get ready to welcome the crowds.
Adam Steinhauer is the editor-in-chief of the Sacramento Business Journal.