Is the Gambling Industry Endangering the Environment?

The gambling industry has been thriving in the last decades all over the world, and while casino businesses do have positive economic outcomes, there are also some social, cultural and environmental implications associated with gambling that are not always positive.

The development of large-scale casino complexes in some parts of the world produces positive local environmental impacts, such as the protection of natural environments, conservation of historical buildings, revitalization of city landscapes and increased development and improvement of recreational sites.

Studies have shown that in some regions across America, like New Jersey or Atlantic City, and across Asia – such as Macau and Singapore, where the gambling industry is more prevalent, casino construction has actually led to the revitalization of the tourism industry and many local residents see this as a positive impact on their life.

In these areas, local government has established strict laws to regulate new casino constructions, highlighting that casino development must not come at the expense of nature.

As such, development plans must be outlined in such manner as to prove how they ensure compliance with public health, safety rules, and how they minimize and even mitigate the impact to wildlife and its habitat.

Nonetheless, it would be a lie to state there are no negative environmental impacts of casino gambling. In fact, research has shown several negative aspects are related to the development of the gambling industry, such as soil erosion, wildlife endangerment, traffic jams, trash escalation, air pollution, loud noise and over-crowding.

For instance, it was noticed that Colorado State Highway 119 was affected by serious traffic jams in the first few weeks after a new casino opened in Colorado. Another example is the fact that bird collisions with buildings are one of the major bird mortality causes, as the facades and lighting of casino are not designed with protecting wildlife in mind.

Moreover, there are clear facts that prove casino development has negatively affected the environment in some parts of the world. The green areas and leisure-dedicated zones on the Macau Peninsula declined from 1.17 km2 in 2003 to 0.96 km2 in 2008. Similarly, green areas per capita registered a significant dive from 13.5 m2 in 2002 to 12.0 m2 in 2008.

Such environmental problems have highlighted the acute need for long-term urban planning in order to avoid and minimize the above-mentioned negative environmental impacts and the establishment of some clear qualifying criteria for casino licensing so that the region’s climate change goals are taken into account. Water conservation, renewable energy, green transportation and wildlife protection are just a few of the common criteria local administrations usually impose upon constructors who want to erect new gambling facilities.