It’s not a game: The disastrous effects of Casinos soon to hit Westmoreland County

Ryan Young

A casino will soon replace Bon-Ton at Westmoreland Mall. Bon-Ton, a clothing apparel store recently shut down and vacated a two story space. While the date has yet to be made public for its construction, the plans are underway.

“I’ve worked for nine years to expand gaming to allow ancillary casinos, so it’s gratifying to see this finally coming to fruition,” state Senator Kim Ward said. “This project will bring a sizeable increase in our tax base, a significant number of full time jobs, and will help revitalize the Westmoreland Mall complex.”

While many people, including government officials and high ranking members of society view the casino as an opportunity for hundreds of new jobs and economic growth, concerned residents and business people fear a casino will bring more harm than good.

In multiple cities across the United States where casinos have become more and more prevalent, crime and drug addiction increased severely.

According to multiple studies done by the University of Illinois and Georgia, 8% of crime was attributed to a casino’s presence in a community.  

It is estimated that this crime increase would not only bring devastation to a community, but also will cost residents roughly $75 dollars a year.

While it is well known that casinos will bring hundreds of new jobs in a community, possible negative effects are still looming.

“The residents of Greensburg and people who come to the mall frequently will now have to be a little more cautious when being around mall property,” Champs Sports Assistant Manager Joseph Shodi said. “If you research any casino enough you will find most have a history of robberies in parking lots, or people being followed home and mugged.”

The National Bureau of Economic Research that gathered studies from across the country found “bankruptcy rates, violent crimes, and auto thefts and larceny each increase in the surrounding community by 10 percent.”

Shodi, who is an avid casino goer himself, was one of the few people to give both the positive and negative effects.

“The rise in the number of family and marital problems will definitely increase as well,”  Shodi adds. “Gambling can ruin lives and relationships if someone loses self control, which it is very easy to in that type of environment. All in all, I think the casino will bring good and bad to the community. I guess we just have to ask ourselves– is all the bad going on in the shadows worth all the good being brought to the spotlight?”

Another key aspect to the addition of a casino at the Westmoreland Mall is the need for added security. Currently the mall security consists of mere security monitors who patrol the mall and alert police if an issue were to arise.

“Parents may have to keep a closer eye on their children,” a local resident and parent of a Greater Latrobe student who wishes to remain anonymous says. “The casino could possibly make things unsafe hence the need for greater security. Guards should also be certified carriers of guns since pepper spray is not much of a deterrent.”

A common theme among the parents of Westmoreland County is the worry they have for their children being alone in the mall.

“I’ve never worried about the mall being unsafe, but having a casino would make me worry about having young teenagers walking around with so many adults,” Patrick McMichael, local resident and father of senior Max McMichael says. “This is a poor community, we don’t need other ways for people to waste their money.”

While many in the public sphere want to focus on the perceived benefits of the casino, many local residents and employees have made it clear that the casino is not a game.