FindingsSeptember 1999: Vol. 78, No. 4

Got casinos? Expect rise in crime

Economics professor David Mustard found 8 percent more crime in counties with casinos. Some gamblers turn to crime, he says, to feed their addiction.
Communities that open their doors to casinos are also opening their doors to crime. That's the conclusion of economics professor David Mustard, who analyzed 20 years of FBI statistics and found 8 percent more crime in counties with casino gambling. The increase typically starts about three years after a casino opens, when problem gamblers exhaust financial resources and turn to crime to feed their addiction.

Mustard undertook the non-sponsored research with colleagues from the University of Illinois because "a lot of casino advocates were arguing that since 1991, when casinos really came into play, the national crime rate dropped significantly." That's true, but the key reasons for that decline, says Mustard, are more prison beds, low unemployment, the declining popularity of crack cocaine, and the graying of America.

By comparing county crime rates, Mustard and his fellow researchers found that casino counties had higher crime rates in every major area except murder, with the biggest jumps in auto theft and robbery.

In previous research, Mustard has delved into such controversial topics as racial, ethnic, and gender-based disparities in prison sentencing and the role an armed citizenry plays in reducing violent crime.

"Economists believe that people respond to incentives," he says. "Change the incentives and you change behavior. If you raise the price of attacking someone, do we see change in behavior? For instance, allowing people to carry a concealed weapon increases the cost of robbing someone because the criminal doesn't know if the person is carrying a gun. We found the deterrent effect outweighed any increase in crime attributable to the concealed weapons carriers."

By far the most exhaustive look at the subject, the casino study was timed to coincide with the release of the National Gambling Impact Study mandated by Congress in 1996.

"We have data from every county in the country," says Mustard. "It makes a more convincing argument, and makes it very easy to make a big impact on important policy decisions."

In August, Mustard discussed his findings at an FBI-sponsored conference for law enforcement and elected officials—primarily from states considering casinos as a means of economic development. For his next study, Mustard and fellow business professor Christopher Cornwell will research another gambling-related topic: Georgia's lottery-funded HOPE Scholarship.

Pat Curry

New wrinkle: no-iron cotton that's non-toxic

By combining three common chemicals, Charles Yang has added a new, non-toxic wrinkle to no-iron clothing.

"The chemicals in this product are food-grade," says Yang, a textiles science professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. "One is citric acid, another is a chemical used in chicken processing, and a third is used for water treatment. Our system is completely environmentally safe; there's no toxicity."

Currently, formaldehyde is the industry's standard ingredient for producing wrinkle-free clothing. But formaldehyde is an extremely toxic chemical which has been linked to cancer and must be treated before it is released in waste water, an expensive process.

Visitors from UGA's McPhaul Center get a look at Yang's no-iron, non-toxic fabric, which is now licensed for sale in more than 90 countries.

Yang worked closely with Oxford Industries in Walton County to develop the non-toxic product, which is being produced and marketed by Callaway Chemicals of Georgia and has been licensed for sale to more than 90 countries around the world. The market for the durable-press finish is estimated at more than $200 million worldwide.

Yang's original work focused on using the product on khaki-style trousers. He is now working with other companies to determine if the finish, which is baked onto the fabric, can be used on lighter-colored and lighter-weight fabrics.

Much of Yang's research was funded by the Consortium on Competitiveness for the Apparel, Carpet, and Textiles Industries, which is a part of the Traditional Industries Program established by former Gov. Zell Miller and continued by Gov. Roy Barnes. TIP is designed to ensure that industries that have served as Georgia's financial backbone for generations remain viable. Besides the carpet, apparel and textile industry, TIP also provides funding for the pulp and paper industry and the food processing industry.

Denise Horton (ABJ '83)

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