When citizens in Ohio approved the construction of the state's first four casinos back in 2009, some critics expressed a fear of increased crime in the area. At the 2012 census, the mid-western state had a population of close to 12 million people. According to the Office of Criminal Justice Services, crime rates in 2012 were fairly stable in the Buckeye State, with minor fluctuations: Whereas the incidence of aggravated assault increased by 1 percent during 2012, the rates of murder, robbery, and forcible rape all decreased slightly that year. In short, Ohio did not see any major crime rate changes in 2012, three years after casinos became legal in the state.
That doesn't mean that the new casinos didn't bring their share of criminal drama to the neighborhood, however. Cincinnati and Columbus have both showcased jolting headlines that make critics wonder if the casinos have, in fact, had a negative impact on the level of crime in those cities.
Ohio Teacher Arrested After Winning Jackpot
A retired high school teacher from Centerville endured an unexpected consequence after winning a $2,000 video poker jackpot in mid-March of 2013: He was taken to jail. The incident occurred at the Horseshoe Cincinnati, a Vegas-style casino that had opened just one week earlier. Mark DiSalvo, age 57, was visiting the establishment with his sister and 85-year-old father on the day of the arrest. After winning the jackpot, casino officials asked DiSalvo to produce ID, which he didn't have on his person. They told him he'd have to wait for a voucher in order to get the money. DiSalvo waited around for two hours and became quite impatient.
DiSalvo said he tried to find out what was taking so long. He felt that one employee in particular responded to his questions rudely, so he asked for that employee's name. That's when things took a turn for the worse.
A Horseshoe employee named Charles Beebe summoned DiSalvo in a rude manner, saying, “When I call you over, come right over to me, boy." According to DiSalvo, Beebe then challenged him to a physical fight. The confrontation was broken up, but it ended with DiSalvo being taken away by police.
According to DiSalvo’s defense attorney, casino employees called the police and lied to them, saying that DiSalvo had caused trouble at the casino on a prior occasion. Thinking they were doing the casino a service by removing an unruly patron, the police handcuffed DiSalvo and took him to jail.
Last summer, DiSalvo was absolved of all charges in court. He is now suing the casino for $56,000, claiming that casino employees gave false testimony about him to police. The city awarded DiSalvo $4,250 for the improper arrest, but the ex-teacher is seeking further damages from the casino. Litigation is now pending and Caesars Entertainment, the parent company of Horseshoe Cincinnati, refuses to comment on the issue at this time.
This incident occurred only one week after the Horseshoe had opened its doors, and it's possible that the workers simply didn't know how to handle an incident in which a winner couldn't produce ID. It's also possible that the employees were trying to stall paying DiSalvo for other reasons. The outcome of this unfortunate case will be an interesting one, indeed.
Hollywood Casino in Columbus Sees its Share of Crime
Penn National Gaming, owner of the Hollywood Casino in Columbus, has witnessed conflict on and near its premises as well. Within the first two months after the casino opened, Columbus deputies received 206 crime reports. One year earlier, when there was still no casino in Columbus, the deputies received only 162 reports. Whether or not that crime increase can be attributed to the establishment of the Hollywood Columbus has not been proven.
In October of 2013, a 29-year-old man won $35,000 playing blackjack at the Hollywood Columbus. He was robbed of his cash a few hours later when armed men who seemed to know him invaded his home. David Hayes sued the Hollywood for not providing his winnings in the form of a check. He noted that the casino employee who paid him made him write down his name and address on a piece of paper and then held the paper up, making it “visible to anyone in the vicinity."
According to his lawyer, Hayes had to wait approximately one hour to be paid. He finally received the money in a stapled, manila envelope full of $100 dollar bills that was approximately “the size of a brick.” Hayes contends that he had asked to be paid by check.
In this case, the plaintiff felt that negligence on the part of the casino set him up to be the victim of robbery. Had he been paid by check, perhaps no one would have realized he was leaving the premises with so much cash. Furthermore, if the employee hadn't asked him to write his name and address on a piece of paper for others to see, potential criminals would not have been able to locate him.
Hayes went back to the casino several months later, on Christmas Eve, and won an even larger jackpot of $130,000. This time, he made sure to leave the facility with his winnings in the form of a check.
In an interesting turn of events, Hayes was arrested one month later for an unrelated crime. He was charged with stealing scrap metal from a jeweler for which he worked. Hayes allegedly took about $107,000-worth of scrap metal from his employer and sold it to a business called Gold Buyers.
While these incidences might imply that criminals gravitate toward casinos and gambling, not all gamblers are crooks and not all casinos are crime-filled. Those who fear casino-related crimes, typically don't support the establishment of new gambling facilities, but those who place value on the fact that casinos bring revenue to local governments and school systems usually do.