Gambling may give some the option of hitting it big, but for the neighbors – it’s not always a jackpot situation.
Casinos can, and often do, have a negative impact on home prices of neighborhoods around them. That’s because they attract gamblers and partiers flocking to their resorts, leaving some cities facing issues like bankruptcies, crime, traffic and congestion, which can play a heavy role on home values. So while some cities’ residents welcome casinos for the promises of jobs and revenue, others hope they never come because of what they can bring.
“Casinos are an attractive nuisance, nuisances on home values,” Jed Smith, of the National Association of Realtors, said when citing the “Economic Impact of Casinos on Home Prices Literature Survey and Issue Analyst.” “The impacts are negative – the positive benefits are minimal but the negative impacts are substantial.”
The bright lights, the chance of winning big or just the overall carefree atmosphere of a casino — those are attractive qualities. But nearby neighborhoods are sometimes the recipient of what makes casinos a nuisance, like the social costs mentioned above.
The report focused on a proposed casino in Springfield, Massachusetts. NAR projected that home values would be negatively impacted by $64 to $128 million with a new casino in Springfield, not including social costs of $8.4 million or more each year. With the Springfield casino not far from many other New England and New York destinations, like Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, it would not be considered “a destination casino.” Research shows it only gets worse for neighborhoods when there is a close proximity between casinos.
“The closer they are together, the more they compete with each other,” Michael Wenz, an assistant economics professor at Northeastern Ilinois University who did research on the impacts of casinos. “The more they compete, the more they’ll draw from a larger population.”
In making projections, NAR looks at the potential positives of a casino, such as jobs and higher local incomes, and the negatives, like crime and traffic. Generally, they found, casinos impact residential homes in the vicinity of the casinos negatively.
Like most things, the effects of casinos on home prices in their local neighborhoods depend largely on where they are. While some places have an obvious negative impact, like Atlantic City, Las Vegas has proven to be successful despite their large tourism attraction being the casinos. Last month when most of the 20 cities surveyed in the Case Shiller 20-City Composites study, which looks at home values across the country, saw a decline, Las Vegas’ home prices were on the rise.
That wasn’t the case for the casino Vanessa Marie Parker worked at near Niagara Falls. She’s seen the negative impacts a casino can have on a neighborhood.
“From what I can recall, the American side of the Falls has always struggled since the early 1990s,” Parker said. “By 2000, a lot of businesses shuttered and the crime rate had increased by a lot.”
A Center for Governmental Research report in June 2005 said that casino gambling’s impact on local economy was unclear. They found that casinos often had various types of impacts on local areas, and that negatives would not only impact the host casino but spill into nearby neighborhoods. While in some cases, home values went up, in many casino areas, the number of bankruptcies increased and violence occurred.
Parker has moved on to a new career in a new area, but she remembers when the casino she worked at opened around other casinos, the area around it hadn’t improved much.
“Overall, the casinos create jobs for the area. Seneca Niagara Casino brought in people who worked in Atlantic City and Vegas, so that meant housing was needed to accommodate the newcomers,” Parker said. “But the casino industry is extremely transitory.”
The high-income earning employees did not need to stay long after hiring and training people during the casino set up, she said.
When a proposed casino was introduced in Toronto in 2012, the local newspaper’s article echoed the findings of the report — the basis that casinos were designed to be a separate entity from its local communities, the sparkling temptation for local authorities of promised revenues, and the equating of casinos with “the kiss of death.” They were not for it.
But Wenz suggests that the way to have a bigger – and less negative – impact on neighborhoods is not to place them in urban areas.
“It’s better to put them in rural areas and making them a relatively large part of the community,” Wenz said.
This may sound familiar to those who may have heard of the story of Las Vegas.
“A prime example is Las Vegas whereas before casinos it was a very small town in Nevada and of course with casinos coming in, money rolls through the door and life is great,” Smith said. “A counter example is Atlantic City where the negative impacts have been substantial and not really brought citizens any great prosperity.”
Smith said Indian casinos can show positives or negatives depending on the area.
“The best places to put them is where there is no economics and there doesn’t seem to be anything driving economic activity,” Wenz said.
There are some positive effects casinos have on neighborhoods, which include job opportunities (especially casinos in lower-income areas), and tax breaks.
Proposals for casinos are not sparse. In fact, casino companies have been putting bids in for a spot in upstate New York , which comes two years after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo first proposed having a casino to revive upstate New York’s economy that suffers from unemployment. Some companies that have entered the bidding include Caesar’s, known for their 53 casinos, including those in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. What will happen is still up to debate.
“The two things most people look for is “what’s it going to do to the neighborhood?” Wenz said. “And what’s it going to do to tax revenues?”