Friday, December 26, 2014

With 'benefits' like this, Phila. doesn't need another casino

As the SugarHouse Casino slogan says, Philly loves a winner — and so, it seems, do crooks.

With 'benefits' like this, Phila. doesn't need another casino

As the SugarHouse Casino slogan says, Philly loves a winner — and so, it seems, do crooks.

In a criminal gambit that began troubling the waterfront casino within months of its debut, police say thieves once again are targeting gamblers after they head home with their winnings.

Philadelphia detectives are on the lookout for a gang that followed at least five SugarHouse patrons who were robbed after being threatened with a Taser stun gun.

The robberies so far have netted around $44,500. Police say four of the victims, including a pregnant woman, wound up in the hospital with injuries after being roughed up and shot with the Taser.

Are you concerned about the social problems that can accompany casinos?
Yes, reports of patrons being robbed after leaving a casino show the risks
No, casinos can’t control what happens off premises
Yes, especially the hidden issue of problem gambling
No, in general, those reports of problems are overblown

It’s certainly no surprise that the casino’s arrival has spawned such brazen criminal conduct as collateral damage. That thugs would prey on patrons was as easily predictable as an increase in problem gambling.

In targeting Asian casino patrons, the robberies also highlight the additional risks to groups viewed by predators as particularly susceptible to gambling. Indeed, the opposition by Asian activists to a downtown casino stemmed, in part, from an understanding of that reality.

While the hope is that a police appeal for the public’s help will quickly lead to an arrest, the robberies are a reminder that the city will only see such problems increase with a second casino.

The demise of plans to build a Foxwoods Casino provided an opportunity to give the city’s second casino license to another town — or to scrap it altogether, given the region’s increasingly saturated casino market. That may yet happen, although state regulators are seeking bids by mid-November for a new city casino site.

New Jerseyans have the right idea, telling pollsters by a solid majority they don’t want casino gambling to expand beyond Atlantic City. Mayor Nutter and other supporters of a second Philadelphia casino see it as a win on the jobs front. But the inevitable social problems and crime could leave casino patrons feeling like losers.

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