This project is informing Kansas legislators of the potential health risks and benefits of a bill that would facilitate the construction of a new casino in southeast Kansas. While previous discussions about casino development have been limited to potential economic benefit and pathological gambling, the HIA sought to bring additional health effects to the table.
The two counties that would be most affected are among the least healthy in the state, and currently struggle with high unemployment, poverty and high rates of premature death, obesity, injuries, and other health problems. Some studies suggest that casinos can elevate the risk of alcohol abuse, violence, stress and mental illness, injury and bankruptcy (which can lead to loss of housing and health insurance). However, casinos can also provide an important source of critically needed economic development, employment (and health insurance), and county and state revenues to support services and infrastructure improvements that promote health.
The HIA uncovered potential health benefits — such as increased quality of life and life expectancy associated with new jobs— and health risks — including chronic fatigue and injury associated with pathological gambling — that were not part of previous discussions about gaming.
KHI partnered with the University of Kansas School of Medicine to conduct this HIA.
The HIA process gave legislators and community members the opportunity to examine how placement of a casino in the region could affect residents’ health. Ultimately, the legislation did not pass in 2012, nor when it was reintroduced in 2013. The HIA did change the policy discussion to more fully integrate health considerations as it was being debated in 2013.