Decatur City Council proposes adding more gambling parlors
Decatur has a gambling problem. Between October 2022 – September 2023, citizens living in one of the state’s poorest cities lost $47.7 million at 96 establishments hosting 560 slot machines. The per capita gambling loss of $690 per resident is among the highest in the state, and it is estimated that citizens spin the reels of slot machines over 400 million times per year, 1.1 million spins a day.
Residents have spoken loudly and clearly to the Decatur City Council - It is time to reduce the number of gambling establishments. Most council members, however, are supporting a proposal to increase the number of gambling parlors in the city (a parlor is a type of gambling business in which liquor and food sales are incidental). I am strongly opposed to adding more gambling parlors in Decatur.
The desire for most on the council to expand gambling parlors is derived from a proposed change in city code that would require taverns with gambling to have at least 40% of revenue be derived from non-gambling revenue and other establishments such as restaurants have at least 50% of revenue be derived from non-gambling revenue. Six establishments cannot even meet the 40% requirement, and to accommodate the businesses, most council members want to issue them gambling parlor licenses (as opposed to having the establishment pivot to a new business model and accommodate residents). With a parlor license, these businesses can now pivot to focus solely on gambling revenues which may have lower overhead costs and substantially higher profits. This is good for these gambling establishments, but it is not good for the city and its citizens.
The council’s support for expanding the number of gambling parlors directly contradicts the views of residents, 76% of whom in a survey indicated that the city should not issue gambling licenses to establishments that may not be able to stay open without it. Citizens recognize what apparently many council members do not, gambling negatively impacts its residents and reduces the perception of the city. Expanding the number of gambling parlors may further exacerbate these negative impacts including addiction, bankruptcy, and crime.
Gambling can ruin people’s lives and cost people their jobs. I want to thank organizations such as Heritage Behavioral Health Center that offer programs to address gambling addiction in our city. To get help, visit www.heritagenet.org or call The Problem Gambling Hotline at 1-800-Gambler.