Vice Squad
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Five Years of Detroit Casinos

Five years ago the first legal casino in Detroit opened, with two more starting up in the subsequent 17 months. (The casinos are "temporary," with the expectation being that they would be replaced by more resort-like permanent casinos. The permanent casinos are behind schedule -- they should have arrived already according to the original plan -- but still intended.) By 2001/02, Detroit collected 12% of its city revenue from the casinos, and the state picks up quite a bit of change, too. This Associated Press article from the Detroit Free Press does a nice job of summarizing some of the costs and benefits of the casinos. I was shocked by this claim about the percentage of adults in Detroit who are compulsive gamblers, though: "A 2001 survey by the Michigan Department of Community Health found that 4.5 percent of adults in the state were compulsive gamblers. In the city of Detroit, the number is 11.4 percent."

The linked article failed to mention perhaps the worst Detroit casino-related incident. In January of 2000, an off-duty police officer was losing thousands of dollars. He played a final hand of blackjack in the high-stakes area, lost the hand, pulled out his gun, and committed suicide. The next day, a firefighter threatened to kill himself in another Detroit casino. Suicide attempts are not uncommon among people with gambling problems. Earlier this month there was an apparent double suicide at a casino hotel in Shreveport, Louisiana, though gambling losses may not have been a motive in the deaths.

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