Casino Study Predicts Serious Health Impacts
For release July 27, 2005
A report to be released Monday predicts serious public health problems for local communities that would be impacted by the establishment of a Las-Vegas style casino in San Pablo.
Casino San Pablo Public Health and EMS Impact Study will be released on Monday, August 1 at a meeting of a committee studying the impact of a proposal by the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians to expand the existing Casino San Pablo. The Lytton Band has scaled down its application for 5,000 slot machines, but could expand in the future. The meeting will be held from 1 - 3 p.m. at the Hilltop Mall, 2200 Hilltop Mall Road, Richmond (Green Parking Area Mall Entrance by J.C. Penney, down the hall and ahead to the storefront between A1 Mart and Sheikh Too)
The report, commissioned by Contra Costa Health Services and conducted by The Abaris Group, a Walnut Creek-based consultant firm, outlines problems with gambling, increased smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke, additional demands on the emergency medical services system and other difficulties that would negatively impact local communities. It describes a number of studies that have been done in other communities about the impact of casinos. (The report is available online at cchealth.org - 231k PDF, 24pp.)
"We are very concerned about the public health impacts of an urban casino," says Wendel Brunner, MD, Contra Costa Public Health Director. "This is especially troublesome because the negative effects would be concentrated in San Pablo, Richmond a North Richmond, communities that already have severe community health problems."
According to the report, one set of survey respondents who lived within ten miles of a casino had double the rate of problem or pathological gambling. The report predicts that as many as 29,700 Contra Costa residents could become problem gamblers as a result of an urban casino in San Pablo. Expanding the Casino San Pablo could result in one additional traffic accident each day, three additional ambulance transports from the casino to local hospitals and delayed ambulance response and transport times due to increased traffic congestion.
Although the report says that there would be modestly lower unemployment rates and modestly higher tax revenue, those gains would come with a severe price tag. Casino workers would be exposed to 600 times more carcinogens from secondhand smoke than those in other workplaces, since tribal facilities are exempt from state and local clean indoor air restrictions. The rates of tobacco use are also expected to climb, costing the county millions of dollars more in medical costs. Other negative impacts include a rise in aggravated assaults and violent crime that were strongly related to casino presence, as well as child abuse and neglect, mental health and other problems.
"The bottom line is that this proposal has not demonstrated that it is good for the local community," says Supervisor Gayle B. Uilkema, whose district includes the impacted communities. There are a number of prevention and mitigation measures described in the report, including a policy at the casino not to cash child support checks and creating information kiosks in the casino about problem gambling. Mitigation funds of $4 million are recommended for mental health, a new ambulance and other programs.
Pointing to a recent policy approved by the Board of Supervisors, Supervisor John Gioia says, "No matter what dollar amount is suggested, the negative affects from casinos would conflict with our Environmental Justice Policy. We don't want to do anything to increase the environmental burden that low-income communities already face. This would be a step in the wrong direction."
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