CINCINNATI – When the 100,000 square-foot Horseshoe Casino opened last year, some officials and residents dreaded the gambling center would lead to a sharp uptick in crime, namely prostitution, theft and drunken driving.
But Cincinnati Police crime data collected from the area around the casino show only 73 casino-related offenses since the gaming center opened in March 2013. Without including casino-related crime, the number of offenses declined in the area compared to the year before the casino opened — mirroring a drop in crime nationwide.
“When there’s talk of a casino coming to town a lot of people say, ‘No, not in our town. We don’t want the prostitution, the illegal drug activity, we don’t want the major crime,’” said Central Business Section Capt. Paul Broxterman. “Well, that just hasn’t happened here.”
From March 2012 to March 2013, the year prior to the casino opening, there were a total of 38 crimes reported in the area surrounding the casino. Eggleston Avenue bounds the area to the west, Reading Road to the north, Elsinore Place to the east and Gilbert Avenue to the south. In the last year since it opened, there were a total of 32 non-casino related crimes reported.
Counting casino-related crime, there was a total of 105 reported crimes.
“When you’re talking about a 24/7 entertainment operation, that has alcohol and large amounts of money involved, that’s a pretty good low number of offenses for the year,” Broxterman said.
Of the 73 casino-related crimes, 51 were reported thefts. Of those 51, 22 were confirmed thefts of purses, wallets, cell phones and casino chips within the casino, according to Central Business Section statistics. There were two felonious crimes reported, one burglary and one felonious assault, but investigators question the validity of the offenses, Broxterman said.
“There are cameras all over that place and we could not find any video supporting such,” Broxterman said.
Records show there have been no prostitution arrests in the casino, and there is little evidence of mob activity. Organized crime, Broxterman said, "really has not crossed our radar."
Broxterman hinted that maybe in a few years, gambling-related crime might come to fruition. He said recent studies show 3 to 5 percent of gamblers become problem gamblers, and then three to five years after a casino opens, they try to find ways to feed their habit.
“These problem gamblers start to turn to crime because they’ve tapped out their personal resources and the resources of their families and friends,” Broxterman said. “There is no real difference in the amount crime. Now, whether that crime has been displaced to a wide view, I don’t know, but it doesn’t appear so.”
No particular “hotspot” has flourished in the area around the casino, Broxterman said, and in accordance with evidence-based targeting, police have not needed to divert resources to specific locations.
“We have not seen it, so it’s been your routine patrol-type activity,” he said.
The study “The Impact of Legalized Casino Gambling on Crime,” conducted by Mark W. Nichols and Mehmet Serkan Tosun, both of the University of Nevada-Reno, examined nationwide county-level data between 1994 and 2009.
“In no circumstances, however, are casinos and crime significantly negatively correlated,” they wrote.
Similar to Cincinnati data where a majority of casino-related crime was theft, the authors concluded, “For the United States as a whole, only an increase in larceny is associated with the opening of casinos. No other crimes are significantly impacted.”
Ohio has authorized four full-service casinos like Horseshoe Cincinnati and seven smaller racinos, with slots parlors next to horse racing tracks. The four casinos have now been open for a full year, raking in $821 million in 2013, including $184.5 million from Horseshoe Cincinnati. Four racinos pulled in another $249 million in 2013, with $5.7 million of that coming from Miami Valley Gaming in Monroe, which opened in December.
“We don’t think it happened by accident, because there was a lot of planning prior to the casino coming,” Broxterman said.
For more crime and justice stories by Kareem Elgazzar, visit www.wcpo.com/elgazzar. Follow him on Twitter at @ElgazzarBLVD