MIAMI (CBSMiami) – If craps tables and roulette wheels come to South Florida crime will spin out of control.
That was the claim of casino opponents who released a scientific study Wednesday, showing that casinos will boost burglary, car theft, robbery, rape, prostitution and political payoffs.
The study, conducted by two long-time former revenue and policy analysts for the State of Florida, predicts an eight to twelve percent increase in crime in the first few years after the proposed mega casinos open.
The ante for taxpayers will be huge, according to the study, that says the cost of prisons and jails alone to house gambling related offenders will hit $3 billion within ten years.
The figure does not include the price tag for police work, prosecutors and the courts. It also does not include the price of lost property.
Former United States Attorney Roberto “Bob” Martinez, a member of the casino opposition group, No Casinos, Inc., said he fears corruption that high rolling gambling interests can bring to police efforts and politics.
“I think the biggest threat to our society is the massive infusion of cash into the political process by these mega groups,” Martinez said.
Casino proponents called the crime study flawed.
“The gaming industry is here already, they’ve been here for years, and no one has documented any increase in crime in connection with the gaming industry,” said Carlos Curbelo, a spokesman for Resorts World International, an outfit that proposes a major casino resort for the Miami water front.
Opponents counter that the wagering allowed now on reservations and at pari-mutuel sites is penny ante compared to the proposed mega casinos that would tower over South Florida skylines.
State Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff, a Republican from Broward County, and a co-sponsor of the measure to permit casino gambling, dismissed the study released by opponents Wednesday.
“I’m not a big fan of studies, because I think it’s how you ask the questions and how you study something,” Bogdanoff told CBS4 News in Tallahassee. “A lot of time they’re looking for a certain result and the study is reflective of the result that they want.”
Casino opponents said that in cities where big money wagering has been allowed, promised advantages have been fleeting and benefits from increased tax revenues are quickly outpaced by the cost of crime, gambling addiction and related infrastructure.
“Wherever these casinos have come, they have brought nothing but heartache and misery to the communities that have hostem them,” said Norman Braman, a Miami auto magnate and civic activist. “I challenge the industry to name me one community in the United States that has benefited from casino gambling after a period of five years.”
The casino bill has already cleared committee in the Florida Senate and faces a key vote in a House committee on Friday. If it passes the house committee, the full legislature will take up the contentious issue.