BRIDGEPORT—Casinos do far more harm than good, said religious leaders, elected officials and other at the first Coalition Against Casino Expansion (CACE) meeting in Connecticut held at the Catholic Center today.
The Coalition, which includes the Connecticut Catholic Conference and the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport, is hoping to build opposition to plans for a casino in Bridgeport or any other part of the state.
“The economics don’t improve when you are making people poor,” said Michelle Mudrick, an organizer of the event. “Jobs are crucial but casinos don’t lead to economic development. “
She said a recent statewide survey found that 70 percent of state residents don’t want another casino, and that people need to make their voices heard by elected officials.
State Senator Tony Hwang of Fairfield, who has led local opposition to casino expansion, said that the long-term costs of the casino culture far outweigh any social benefits.
Hwang said gambling addiction has devastating consequences for individuals and families and is the single highest causes of suicides in the U. S. He said that people live out their loses in “shame and silence.”
“It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” said Council of Churches leader Rev. Cass Shaw, as a seminarian in Atlantic City. She said the promised jobs never really materialized, while the casinos contributed to a housing crisis by attracting many poor people who were looking for work.
“From listening to the testimony today I am reminded of the story of David versus Goliath,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in brief remarks to the gathering, “and we all know how that story ended.”
“Opposition to casino expansion is our sacred duty because we are here to stand with those who have no voice and who will be hurt and have their lives shattered.”
Organizers of the meeting said that there is much work to be done because the gambling industry is putting its resources into promoting a Bridgeport casino and many people aren’t aware of the negative impact of casinos on individual lives and communities.
Featured speaker Bob Steele, a former U. S. Congressman, said that the proliferation of gambling casinos has changed the face of gambling and turned it into an industry that feeds off local residents.
“There are 58 casinos in the Northeast now, on the way to 80,” said Steele, who noted that as the number expands, the existing casinos are laying off workers, and cutting back on health benefits for their employees.
Likewise, with casino expansion in New York and Massachusetts, any new Connecticut casino will draw mostly from Connecticut residents and not bring new money into the state.
State gambling is a different picture than established centers like Las Vegas, which draws high rollers from across the country and around the world who are prepared to lose a fortune at a gaming table.
Most in-state gamblers play the slot machines and some ending up betting their homes and their futures on the addictive action of “machine gambling,” which represent 80% of the profits, he said.
Steele, who also wrote a novel title the “Curse” about the gambling industry in Connecticut, said that crimes and personal problems including addiction and bankruptcies increase around casinos.
He said that the opening of the casino in Ledyard, where he lived for years, was followed by an increase in violent crime, arrest for driving while intoxicated, and embezzlement as people, including a town official, stole money to gamble and cover losses.
Speakers agreed that Bridgeport need jobs but that funding them on the backs of the poor is not a good long-term strategy.
“Do you think that it’s a good way to build Bridgeport by encouraging the citizens to lose their money,” Steele asked. “The social and economic costs of a casino will outweigh the benefits three to one.”
In March 2017, the Catholic Bishops of Connecticut issued a statement through Connecticut Catholic Conference opposing the expansion of casinos in Connecticut. While the church is not opposed to gambling, the bishops said that the “serious negative impact” of the gaming industry is well documented.
Anyone interested in joining the Coalition Against Casino Expansion (CACE) can go to the Facebook page: NoCasinoinBridgeport or visit the website: www.nomorecasinoinct.org