Dylan Scott is a GOVERNING staff writer.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the last year, Kansas lawmakers have considered legislation that would make it easier for entrepreneurs to open a casino in Crawford and Cherokee counties. The bills would reduce the privilege fee and minimum investment required to earn approval to establish a casino. For a region of the state that has struggled economically in recent years, supporters are understandably pointing to the potential for new jobs and broader economic growth.
But a group of public health advocates wants to remind lawmakers that, though their fiscal intentions might be pure, opening a casino has impacts outside of state coffers and private sector pocketbooks. The Kansas Health Institute released a health impact assessment (HIA) Wednesday outlining what a casino could mean for the area's health and how they can aim to offset any negative consequences.
It's part of the broader HIA movement, an effort to incorporate health considerations into policy decisions that might, on their face, not have much to do with health at all. The Kansas casino HIA demonstrates how versatile these new tools of public policy can be.
Its authors drew on a variety of data sources -- including the experience of nearby counties that are already home to a casino -- and interviews with stakeholders to gauge the health impacts of a casino opening in southeast Kansas. Here are some of the most striking findings:
While the above findings might be sobering to those touting the casino's economic benefits, the HIA's authors also suggested policies and actions that could help to mitigate some of the negative outcomes. Using new tax revenue to invest in public health efforts is one of them. Here are a few more:
The findings will be shared with state legislators and made available with the general public to inform discussion of the bills during the next legislative sessions, according to their authors. As they wrote in the introduction, the intention of the HIA is not to persuade policymakers one way or the other, but to simply bring health into a conversation that has focused almost entirely on the economy.
The full HIA is below.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.