Casinos, Casino Size and Crime: A Panel Data Analysis of Michigan Counties

Philip Blinn Thompson, Gregory A Falls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Growth in legal gaming in the United States over the past quarter century or so is well-documented. One important factor fueling this growth was the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, which permitted Native American tribes to establish, under agreements or “compacts” with the states in which they are located, casinos offering what is known as Class III gaming: slot machines, blackjack, roulette, and other games. Since the passage of the Act, there have been 21 Native American casinos established in Michigan. Also, three non-Native American casinos opened in Detroit in 1999 and 2000. This growth in the number of casinos has sparked a wide-ranging debate over the social and economic impacts of casino development. The purpose of this research is to focus on the crime issue in the broader casino debate. We investigate the impact of these Michigan casinos on the rates of burglary, robbery, larceny and motor vehicle theft (property crimes) in casino host counties as well as in nearby counties. We employ a panel data set with annual observations on all 83 Michigan counties for the period 1994-2010. The dataset includes crime rates taken from the FBI crime data series, variables for the presence of a casino in a county or in a nearby county, the scale of a casino’s operations as measured by revenues, and a variety of control variables suggested by the broader literature investigating the factors that determine crime rates generally. Our results suggest that in most cases the property crime rates studied are not affected by the presence or size of a casino in a county or in a nearby county. The largest such impact, which is negative, is for larcenies motor vehicle theft. The size of a casino does have a small positive effect on the motor vehicle theft rate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-132
JournalQuarterly Review of Economics and Finance
StateAccepted/In press - 2014


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