Since I started the show “Common Cents,” I have been telling folks across our state that a strong culture leads to a strong economy, and that a strong economy reinforces a strong culture. My political philosophy is based on the belief that good values are good business, and that this is true for states as well as businesses and individuals. As such, I have long opposed efforts by some of our friends on the Left in the SC Legislature – who have introduced legislation every session of the SC General Assembly- to try to introduce casino gambling into South Carolina. Each year the promises are the same: gambling will create thousands of new South Carolina jobs, while growing our already multi-billion dollar tourist industry. Each year, these promises are nothing short of deceptive.
My perennial opposition to expanded gambling in our state was recently vindicated by events in Atlantic City, New Jersey. This is a coastal city that has built its entire tourist model around the casino industry, and this model worked well for a while. Thousands of tourists flocked to Atlantic City, but not for the beaches, the culture, or for good family fun. Instead, Atlantic City attracted folks interested only in gambling tourism, which is highly elastic when people experience a decline in their income. Tourism based on gambling alone is less consistent and repetitive than tourism based on a multitude of factors and a family-friendly environment. That is why, even as Atlantic City was booming, places like Myrtle Beach, SC managed to outpace tourism growth in Atlantic City every year. What’s more, when the economy took a dive following the financial crisis of 2008, places like Myrtle Beach fared better than gambling-dependent destinations like Atlantic City.
Gambling is a parasite on the broader economy. Any place where gambling becomes a major or the dominant industry, manufacturing, research and development, and other industry stays away. The cultural ethos necessary to maintain a strong economy is destroyed in an environment that promotes profligacy and financial folly. That is why Horry County (home to Myrtle Beach, SC) has been able to attract major manufacturers like PTR Industries at a time that Atlantic County NJ (home to Atlantic City) has bled jobs in every sector. Now that Atlantic City’s gambling industry is collapsing, there’s nothing left to provide prosperity to the people who built their dreams on the gambling castles in the sand.
Our friends on the Left are wrong: turning Myrtle Beach into an SC-based Atlantic City is not the way to grow our economy and expand our state revenues. If the history of Atlantic City, NJ, is any indicator, such a policy will put thousands of South Carolinians out-of-work, slow the family-driven tourism boom along the SC coast, and undermine the culture of our state. I applaud Governor Nikki Haley for strongly opposing the introduction of industry gambling in our state. Such a move by our Governor reaffirms the notion that South Carolina is “open for business,” and that we are committed to a culture that will keep those businesses coming.